The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, June 29, 2001

House bill for plant cleanup falls short
The bill is more than $50 million short of the $125 milllion the gaseous diffusion plant needs to keep cleanup on schedule.

By Bill Bartleman

The U.S. House has approved a bill that includes funding for cleanup at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant that is more than $50 million short of what plant officials say is needed.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield said he will continue to work with U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning to increase funding as the bill moves toward final congressional approval later in the summer.

The bill includes $72.2 million for environmental management, which is $10 million more than what President Bush had proposed. "Getting any increase over the president's request was a worthwhile accomplishment, given the cuts at other DOE facilities," Whitfield said.

Last week, Don Seaborg, the U.S. Department of Energy's manager in Paducah, said revised estimates and new priorities have increased the cleanup costs by at least $380 million over the next eight years.

To meet new priorities and to keep the cleanup timetable on schedule, he released figures which indicate at least $125 million would be needed next year.

Without that level of funding, Seaborg said DOE won't meet the 2010 deadline for completing most of the cleanup work. Failing to meet the deadline could result in legal action by the Kentucky Natural Resources Cabinet, which regulates environmental conditions at the plant.

The bill includes funding for other projects at the plant, including $34 million for further work to recycle almost 40,000 cylinders of uranium hexafluoride. That project includes $10 million from the general fund and $24 million from a fund that was created when he plant was privatized.

Also in the bill is $13.3 million from a special fund to build an on-site low-level waste disposal cell. Seaborg said those funds won't be needed next year because a feasibility study and other paperwork will not be completed in the 2002 fiscal year.

The bill also provides $2.4 million for security and other safeguards, and $15.4 million for medical monitoring of current and former workers at plants in Paducah, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Portsmouth, Ohio.

The plant funds were included in the $23.7 billion Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill, which passed by a vote of 405-15. It now goes to the Senate and eventually will be decided in a House-Senate conference committee.

The bill also includes $20.4 million for the Kentucky Lock project, $40 million for the Olmsted Lock and Dam, and $460,000 for dredge work at the Elvis Stahr Harbor in Hickman.

Whitfield said he also will work to increase funding for the Kentucky lock project because the amount approved is less than half of what could be used next year.