The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday, December 04, 2002

USEC announces its decision today
Centrifuge test plant will employ 50

By Joe Walker

USEC Inc. will announce today in Washington, D.C., whether Paducah or Piketon, Ohio, will get a 50-job plant to test enriching uranium using gas centrifuge technology.

Company spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle confirmed that William "Nick" Timbers, USEC president and chief executive officer, will make the announcement at 8:30 a.m. CST at the National Press Club.

"USEC looks forward to announcing the siting of the lead cascade centrifuge test facility, which is an important step toward deploying the most efficient advanced uranium enrichment technology in the world," she said.

Stuckle would not reveal the winner. Various Paducah area leaders said earlier Tuesday that they expected an announcement, perhaps as early as today, but had heard nothing official and did not know if Paducah won or lost.

Some nuclear energy experts speculate Piketon will get the nod because of having two centrifuge buildings mothballed since 1985 and not having the earthquake-risk problems posed at Paducah, which is at the northern tip of the New Madrid Fault zone.

Two months ago, the governors of Kentucky and Ohio gave the Bethesda, Md.-based firm economic incentive packages seeking the roughly $60 million plant, which will test more than 200 gas centrifuge machines for about three years. Amid greatly sagging profits, USEC is counting on the performance to generate sufficient financial backing for a 500-job, $1.5 billion commercial centrifuge plant that is expected to replace the outdated, energy-intensive Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant starting early next decade.

USEC plans to name Paducah or Piketon as the commercial plant site a few months before seeking Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing in the spring of 2007. The plant would be operational by 2010 if built at Piketon, or by 2011 if built at Paducah. A USEC agreement with the Department of Energy requires the existing Paducah plant to operate at least until 2010.