The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, January 05, 2002

Paducah pact given for scrap removal
Weskem's work will create about 35 jobs, and is expected to begin in June and take more than four years.

By Joe Walker

Weskem has been awarded a $22 million contract to remove about 29,000 tons of scrap metal at the Paducah uranium enrichment plant during the next 4 1/2 years.

Expected to begin in June, the field work will create about 35 jobs, including 14 hourly positions expected to be filled by members of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE) Local 5-550.

Hourly jobs consist of heavy equipment operators, maintenance mechanics and operator-laborers, said Dan Watson, president of Weskem's Paducah operations. PACE members have preference for the work by seniority, but some employees could come from the community if union people are unavailable. Those jobs will be locally advertised, starting within 30 days, he said.

"We've hired quite a few people from the community in the last 12 to 18 months," he said. "We established 45 work force transition personnel in February 2000, and now that's up to about 125 with about half of those coming from the community."

Transition workers are people who had been employed by Bechtel Jacobs, the lead environmental contractor, or other companies involved in plant cleanup. Bechtel Jacobs awarded the scrap metal contract, calling for Weskem to remove, characterize, sort and transport the material to an approved disposal site in Nevada.

Much of the metal, stored in scrap yards in the northwest fenced area of the plant, was removed in plant production upgrades many years ago, Watson said.

Removal of the scrap metal is the second phase of work to rid the Paducah plant of outdoor storage areas. The so-called "drum mountain," a 35-foot-high pile of 85,000 crushed drums, was removed from the plant in 2000 at a cost of $7 million under contract with USEC, the plant operator.

Bechtel Jacobs spokesman Greg Cook said USEC was one of three firms outbid by Weskem for the new work. Drum mountain represented only about 10 percent of the 65,000 tons of scrap metal at the plant.

The contract does not include disposal of nickel ingots. Because the nickel has potentially high value, the ingots will remain stored until the Department of Energy can determine if they can be recycled, Cook said.

Weskem was formed in 1999 to do waste management and disposal work at Department of Energy plants here and in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

PACE reached a new, four-year contract with the firm in July, providing for pay increases of 4 percent in the first and second years, 3.8 percent in the third year and 3.5 percent in the fourth, as well as what union officials called "substantial" pension and benefit improvements.