By Shelley Street
Though many were reluctant to talk, several workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant used the word “relief” to describe their reactions to Wednesday’s announcement that USEC Inc. would not close the plant.
Operator Joe Windt said he also sympathizes with Portsmouth plant employees, who will be out of jobs in the next year.
“It’s a bad thing to close either one of the plants,” he said. “I’m sure they feel the same way we would have felt had it been us. We’re just relieved it’s not us.”
Plant President Howard Pulley conveyed USEC’s closure decision over the loudspeaker shortly after 5 p.m.
Plant shift supervisor Rod Cook said the immediate reaction was happiness and that the announcement relieved a lot of pressure. He said the staff has worked hard to keep the Paducah plant open.
“The bad part is, it’s a two-edged sword,” he said. “A lot of good people in Portsmouth lost their jobs.”
Power supervisor Mark Wood said he “hates it” for the Portsmouth workers, but he said the closure has more to do with the uranium market than it does with them.
“I think a lot of jobs have been sent to Russia,” he said. “I understand that they need to get the material they have out of there; I just don’t know how they’re going to do it and keep jobs here.”
Wood says he feels secure in his job, but others still harbor some doubt about the future of uranium enrichment.
Radiation protection technician Louis Clement expressed his doubts that the Portsmouth plant will close, after all.
“Just because they say that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily close,” he said, indicating a feeling that USEC has a history of saying one thing and doing another.
Cascade operator Kevin Choate echoed those doubts about the Paducah plant.
“We’ve heard it before that the plant was closing down, and we’ll probably hear it again,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll be fine. That’s what got us to this point.”
Customer services manager Terry Sorrell called the decision a “vote of confidence” in the Paducah workers.
“I hope that our customers also see this and feel that USEC is a strong and reliable source of enrichment services for them,” she said.
Sorrell doesn’t see the Portsmouth closure as a sign of a slipping economy.
“I don’t think we have a big industrial trend toward closure of plants,” she said. “It’s unfortunate in our business that the market is depressed.”
Staff writer Molly Harper contributed to this story.