The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, July 13, 2001

Committee bill gives money to cleanup

Staff, AP reports

The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved nearly $140 million for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant work and $800,000 to help its raw-product supplier, the Honeywell plant at Metropolis, Ill.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which now goes to the full Senate, also contains $23 million for the Kentucky Lock project and $41 million for the Olmsted Lock and Dam.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, a senior member of the appropriations panel, said the bill has $103 million for Paducah plant cleanup, $31 million more than the House version.

It also has $34 million for converting hazardous depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) at the plant into safer material. The money will fund planning, engineering, design, site characterization and preparation work for conversion facilities to be built at the Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, uranium enrichment plants by 2004.

Prior legislation drafted by McConnell set aside more than $370 million to build the facilities. The bill approved Thursday has language requiring an annual report on the status of the money, he said.

Funding for the Honeywell plant, which makes UF6 for enrichment at Paducah, was included at the request of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. The plant employs about 325 people, about 260 of whom are involved in UF6 production.

As part of the 1998 deal privatizing the USEC Inc., which runs the Paducah plant, the federal government transferred its commercial-grade uranium stockpiles to the new entity. That, along with a worldwide glut of uranium, flooded the market and led to depressed prices that have devastated facilities like Honeywell, Durbin said.

Just last year, plant officials were seeking $9 million from the federal government, saying the plant was likely to shut down without it. Now the market is beginning to rebound, and Durbin hopes that means the company can make do with far less.

The energy bill also provides $2.5 million for the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky School of Public Health to continue studying current and former workers to determine how much radiation exposure they sustained while working at the Paducah plant, McConnell said.

Other money in the bill is earmarked to continue replacing outdated locks on the Ohio River at Olmsted, Ill., and double the size of Kentucky Lock at Kentucky Dam.