The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Wednesday, August 02, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

NRC: USEC's upgrade 'aggressive' but on track
In Tuesday's meeting it was agreed that a team would meet monthly to head off problems as they arise to get the plant in compliance by March.

By Joe Walker
An "aggressive" plan to upgrade the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant by March is on schedule, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says.

Senior NRC and USEC Inc. officials met Tuesday at commission headquarters in Rockville, Md., to discuss the company's initiative for the plant to be able to enrich uranium to nuclear-fuel level by spring. The plant now sends uranium hexafluoride to a sister plant near Portsmouth, Ohio, for finishing, but USEC plans to close the Portsmouth plant by next June.

NRC spokeswoman Mindy Landau said a commission team devoted to the "high-assay project" will meet monthly at the Paducah plant with its managers to try to keep the project on track.

Although much of the physical work has been done, voluminous paperwork must be reviewed and approved by the NRC before the plant can increase its enrichment level. The NRC is concerned about nuclear safety issues relative to the upgrade.

"Bill Cain (director of the NRC Office of Nuclear Materials, Safety and Safeguards) called this an aggressive schedule that will require a commitment by both parties to meet," Landau said. "He stressed that communication must be good at all levels and that the quality of work products is very important."

The monthly work team will address and try to resolve problems as they arise, rather than letting them mount, she said.

Landau said a final compliance evaluation report is slated for Feb. 12, but if there are unresolved items, it could be bumped four to six weeks. To receive approval by March, USEC has pledged to start delivering critical documentation in September, she said.

USEC is expected to file a request during the week of Oct. 23 to amend its certificate of operation to reflect the higher enrichment level, Landau said.

"It's our goal to get it (amendment) to them earlier than that," USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said. "We thought it was a very positive meeting. Both we and they seem committed to meeting the deadlines."