The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday, August 08, 2001

USEC makes cut to recycle tons of waste
Three groups' bids are finalists for the uranium conversion plant contract, which is expected to be awarded in October.

By Joe Walker

Three groups of firms, including the U.S. Enrichment Corp. and two environmental cleanup companies with extensive local presence, have made the "short list" vying for a contract to recycle tons of hazardous uranium waste at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Advancing bidders, who submitted proposals March 1, are:

--American Conversion Services, formed by plant operator USEC and CH2M Hill, a national environmental firm that has been working at the plant for more than a decade. USEC employs about 1,500 people at the plant, which enriches uranium for use in nuclear fuel.

--Jacobs COGEMA, formed by Jacobs Engineering Group and COGEMA. Jacobs is a partner with Bechtel National in Bechtel Jacobs, which beat Foster Wheeler and others to become the Paducah plant’s lead environmental contractor. COGEMA, a French firm, is a world leader in nuclear fuel services and already operates conversion facilities.

--Uranium Disposition Services, formed by Framatome ANP (Advanced Nuclear Power) Richland, Duratek Federal Services, and Burns and Roe Enterprises. Framatome, of France, is a world leader in nuclear reactor production. Duratek, a Maryland firm, has advanced nuclear waste disposal technology. Burns and Roe is a New Jersey-based architectural and engineering firm.

"This is the short list of who will continue in the competition as we move toward a final award by the end of October," said Walter Perry, spokesman for the Department of Energy, which owns the plant.

The winner will build facilities at Paducah and its closed sister plant in Ohio to convert depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into a safer material. Perry said construction must start by Jan. 31, 2004, but all other dates, including beginning operation, are subject to bidders' proposals.

In 1998, Congress passed a law earmarking $373 million and requiring DOE to build facilities at each plant to recycle about 50,000 cylinders — roughly 14 billion pounds — of spent UF6. Most of the cylinders are at Paducah; others are at Portsmouth and a closed enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Depleted UF6 is hazardous and contains low-level radiation. It has no established commercial use, but the facilities would convert the waste to safer material while commercial applications are developed.

Some past estimates have shown each plant would employ 100 to 200 people, depending on the level of government involvement.

USEC Chief Executive Officer William Timbers has said his firm is aggressively seeking work, including the conversion project, outside its customary field of uranium enrichment.

Losing bidders were:

--Foster Wheeler Environmental Conversion Services, formed by BWX Technology Services, British Nuclear Fuels and Foster Wheeler Environmental Corp. BWXT, a leading uranium processor, is a partner with Bechtel National to manage a nuclear weapons plant at Oak Ridge. British Nuclear is a nuclear fuel processor that recycles DOE scrap nickel in Oak Ridge. Foster Wheeler, a New Jersey-based environmental firm, lost a bid with two other firms to be the lead environmental contractor for DOE at Paducah a few years ago.

--General Atomics, a nuclear services firm in San Diego. It joined Honeywell for a pilot conversion facility a few years ago at Metropolis, Ill., where Honeywell runs a plant that makes raw product for USEC. A consortium of General Atomics and Texas Pacific Group unsuccessfully bid about $1.5 billion to buy USEC Inc. in 1998 before USEC was privatized.