The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, January 10, 2002

DOE doubles plant's budget for security
Prior to ept. 11, the budget for fiscal 2002 was $2.4 million. The majority of the increase has gone to security personnel.

By Joe Walker

The Department of Energy has doubled annual spending on security at its Paducah uranium enrichment plant to more than $4.8 million because of the terrorism of Sept. 11.

The department had planned to spend about $2.4 million for fiscal 2002, starting Oct. 1. That has roughly doubled as part of increased security at government-owned nuclear plants nationwide, DOE spokesman Walter Perry said.

"What this consists of is primarily labor costs, such as overtime and additional working hours for security officers," he said. "We've had to staff additional posts, increase security checks, install physical barriers and evaluate protection requirements in accordance with security condition procedures."

The 1,500-employee plant, which enriches uranium for use in nuclear fuel, has been at heightened security since the terrorism. DOE shares security costs with USEC, which leases much of the sprawling facility for production.

USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said the company has increased its security spending, but wouldn't reveal the amount.

"We're committed to protecting the security of our employees, the plant and our neighbors, in addition to national security interests," she said. "We are proud of the additional efforts by our security personnel since Sept. 11."

Enhanced security has meant much extra work for security personnel affiliated with Local 111 of Security Police and Fire Professionals of America, said John Driskill, government and public affairs officer for the group.

"Since Sept. 11, we've worked a tremendous amount of overtime and different work schedules trying to get the job done," he said. "USEC is hiring more officers, but that's something that takes a period of time to accomplish."

Neither he nor Stuckle would say how many new officers are planned. The union represents about 35 security and fire-rescue employees.

Perry said most of the security changes are secretive, but the security perimeter of the plant which has about 750 fenced acres has been broadened and a checkpoint added to Hobbs Road, the main entrance. Barriers have been placed at perimeter roads, and McCaw Road, linking the plant with Metropolis Lake Road near Grahamville, remains closed, he said.

Now that its sister plant in Ohio is closed, the Paducah plant is the nation's only uranium enrichment facility. "It's a national asset and we will take the appropriate steps to ensure it is protected," Perry said.

Similar security measures have been taken at Honeywell in Metropolis, Ill., which supplies uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to the Paducah plant and is the only place in the nation where UF6 is made.

"When you extend perimeter patrol, it entails a lot more man-hours and people," Driskill said. "We were operating at a bare minimum when all this hit, so naturally it takes more man-hours."

Driskill credited USEC and Paducah plant general manager Russ Starkey for making the changes without worrying if the Energy Department would increase security funding. In the past, the security union spokesman has criticized USEC and DOE for not putting greater emphasis on security.

Neither DOE nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees production areas of the plant, requires armed guards, but federal law mandates arming and arrest authority at the plant. In December, Driskill wrote the NRC asking it to upgrade security regulations at Paducah amid a commission review of nuclear plants nationwide because of Sept. 11.

NRC spokesman Jan Strasma said Wednesday that no decision had been made on Driskill's request. Despite the wait, Driskill said he is pleased with the financial commitments of DOE and USEC.

"It all boils down to funding," he said. "We can talk about all the weaponry, training and everything else, but it's a question of who's paying for what or nothing gets done."

Driskill said his and other security unions nationally plan to have a conference in Washington, D.C., by early March to form an umbrella labor group, similar to the AFL-CIO, to address standard plant defense. "We're hoping we can effect legislation this year related to that."