THE SUN: USEC Inc. says it is having financial problems because of an agreement to buy nuclear weapons grade fuel from Russia at prices higher than the market value. Should the agreement be canceled, should the federal government subsidize USEC or should USEC continue to be the broker without financial help?
WHITFIELD: The agreement to purchase Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) should remain in effect for national security reasons. However, if our goal of demilitarizing Russia's weapons and importing Russian HEU directly threatens the long-term viability of the domestic uranium enrichment industry, then we should consider a subsidy that protects that industry from the below-market prices of the Russian HEU.
ROY: It is unfortunate that the Russian agreement has created financial problems for USEC, but the fact of the matter is that this deal helps ensure our national security by taking weapons grade uranium out of the hands of an unstable government. The government made a commitment to the Russian government, and it should stand by its word. This country depends upon the enriched uranium produced in Paducah and Portsmouth for over one quarter of the nation's electric power. If USEC goes out of business, we would be dependent upon foreign sources to supply this energy. Recent gas prices have showed us what can happen when foreign powers control our markets. This must not happen with uranium enrichment.
THE SUN: Should USEC Inc. continue operating the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, or should the federal government take it back and operate it? Explain the benefits of USEC continuing to operate it or the benefits of it returning to the federal government.
WHITFIELD: In the short term, there is no universal support for enacting legislation to allow the government to resume control over the Paducah and Portsmouth gaseous diffusion plants. If it is determined that USEC plans to abandon the domestic production of enriched uranium and simply become a broker of Russian HEU, I will support legislation to return production to government control. We must always have the capability to produce uranium domestically.
ROY: The government should refederalize USEC as soon as possible in order to ensure that this vitally important industry remains viable. USEC was put in a position that made it next to impossible for them to operate with a profit. In addition to the financial problems created by the Russian agreement, the company's financial hardships also stem from having to pay for huge salaries to corporate executives and for stock dividends. It is apparent to me that the federal government must get involved in this business before USEC closes another facility. The federal government retaking control of this business would allow hundreds of people to keep their jobs, would ensure that the United States continues to have a domestic source of enriched uranium, and that the obligations of the Russian agreement are kept.
THE SUN: If a majority of your constituents support a specific proposal, but if your study and research indicates the proposal should be defeated, how would you vote on that issue?
WHITFIELD: My constituents expect me to vote according to their views on issues in the Congress. However, they are also aware that I may have access to more information on issues because of hearings I participate in, testimony I read and mail I receive. Therefore, I do have a responsibility to consider the views of my constituents, balance that with information on the issue and vote the way most beneficial for my constituents.
ROY: I will always vote to do what is best for the majority of the constituents that I am elected to represent.
THE SUN: What would you do in Congress, if anything, to change the way the Land Between the Lakes is operated?
WHITFIELD: At this point in time, I would make no changes in the current manner in which LBL is operated. The transition from TVA to Forest Service management has been a smooth one that has protected the original mission, resulted in little or no loss of services, and allows for direct input in the long-term management of the property by local and state-appointed citizens.
ROY: Regardless of which federal agency controls the Land Between the Lakes I will fight commercialization of any form and will make preserving this recreation area a top priority when I am in Congress. Recently, I visited the Land Between the Lakes only to discover that there is now a restaurant, a gift shop and even horse rentals. This kind of commercialization goes against everything that the people who were moved out of the Land Between the Lakes years ago were promised. At the same time, popular educational attractions like Empire Farm and the Silo Overlook have been closed. Commercialization inside the LBL puts businesses in surrounding small towns in direct competition with the federal government for income. That is wrong, and in Congress, I will fight to make sure we stop commercialization before it is too late. The LBL has always been a part of my family's life, and I want to make sure that it is there for my grandson and future generations to enjoy.
THE SUN: Should the Tennessee Valley Authority be privatized?
WHITFIELD: No. TVA has provided for the energy needs of our region of the country for decades at very low cost compared to other parts of the country. Despite various newspaper articles, I am not aware of any effort to privatize TVA.
ROY: I am absolutely opposed to privatizing TVA. The establishment of TVA created low electric rates, which in turn brought industry and jobs to rural America. It was also TVA's cheap power that helped keep the USEC plant in Paducah open. TVA is not perfect, but it has played a major role in developing a strong economy in our area, and I believe that it will play a vital role in our area's future.
NEXT WEEK: The Campaign