The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, August 30, 2001

USEC: Exelon visits part of peer review
Rumors had been flying around the plant that the nuclear power company was planning to buy USEC.

By Bill Bartleman

A team of technical experts from Exelon Nuclear is at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant this week as part of a nuclear industry exchange program to review operations and make recommendations for improving efficiency.

Rumors among employee groups that Exelon's visits are part of a plan to buy the U.S. Enrichment Corp., which operates the plant, are incorrect, USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said.

The rumors intensified this week as Exelon officials are making their second visit this month. Exelon President and Chief Nuclear Officer Oliver Kingsley Jr. toured the plant Aug. 3 with Nick Timbers, USEC president and chief executive officer.

Also fueling the sale rumors is the fact that USEC and union production employees have been involved in tense negotiations for a new contract to replace one that expired July 31. The union has soundly rejected one contract, but reached a temporary agreement on Wednesday that will last until Nov. 15.

John Driskill, president of the Security Police and Fire Professionals of America, Local 111, said concerns about the future of the plant, contract negotiations with the production union and rumors of a possible sale worry employees.

"We've got all this stuff going on, and these people are here looking at the plant," he said. "We don't ever seem to be able to get in a comfortable mode of operation."

Exelon operates 10 nuclear stations and 17 reactors that produce 17,000 megawatts of power for suppliers in Pennsylvania and other East Coast states. Exelon is a potential large customer for the nuclear fuel produced at the Paducah plant.

USEC officials say Kingsley's visit was arranged because he is an expert in nuclear power production, but had never been to a plant that produces nuclear fuel.

Stuckle said the visit by the five Exelon technicians is a followup to Kingsley's visit and has nothing to do with selling the plant.

"Mr. Kingsley was very complimentary of the Paducah plant and its efficiency, but he offered to do what is called a 'best practice peer review,'" Stuckle said. "The reviews are frequent in the nuclear industry and involve sending teams in from each other's facility to give a fresh look at its performance and efficiency."

Although the production of nuclear fuel in Paducah differs from the production of power in nuclear plants, Stuckle said there are similarities in handling radiation and waste materials, and in operating the plants.

"Each facility learns a better way of doing things, and this allows others to benefit from what they have learned," Stuckle said. She said technical officials from the Paducah plant have done similar reviews for other companies.

The Exelon team will list recommendations to help make the Paducah plant more efficient, Stuckle said. "Even though we have been complimented on our high efficiency, we are continuing to look for ways to increase performance and efficiency.

"It is a very positive story in the fact that the industry does this, and that the teams share information on the lessons they have learned and on best practices."