The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Bush's budget has DOE cleanup funds
The Paducahspending for that purpose is recommended at $176 million for the 2004 fiscal year.

By Bill Bartleman

The U.S. Department of Energy would spend $176 million during the 2004 fiscal year for cleanup work and other activities associated with the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, under recommendations proposed Monday by President Bush.

The amount includes $45 million to begin design and construction of a plant to recycle depleted uranium hexafluoride that has been accumulating at the plant for more than 50 years.

The recycling plant would employ about 150 people and operate for at least 30 years. There are more than 36,000 cylinders of depleted uranium stored in Paducah.

Details could not be obtained on any recommendations for other programs and projects for the region, such as a new lock at Kentucky Dam and continued construction of a lock and dam on the Ohio River near Olmsted, Ill.

Spokesmen for U.S. Sens. Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield said staff members were continuing to review several thousand pages of budget documents to determine recommendations for Kentucky projects. They anticipated that more details would be released today.

Details of cleanup funds for Paducah were revealed early Monday when DOE officials in Washington held a telephone news conference with reporters in communities where DOE facilities are located.

Assistant Energy Secretary Jessie Roberson said the budget also funds a new office that would manage DOE's operations in Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, that currently are managed from Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The change is being made at the insistence of Kentucky's congressional delegation to help eliminate a layer of bureaucracy created by the Oak Ridge office. The new office would have a direct link to DOE headquarters in Washington.

Roberson said details of the new office haven't been finalized and are the subject of negotiations with Kentucky's congressional delegation. The office is expected to be located in Lexington and have 19 employees, some of whom will work in Paducah and Portsmouth.

Roberson also said that funds for the Paducah cleanup work include those allocated through an accelerated cleanup plan announced last year, even though state and federal regulatory officials have not agreed to the accelerated plan.

Roberson said the sticking points in reaching an agreement are priorities for the cleanup and setting deadlines for completing each project.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in the same news conference that DOE was to combine projects to streamline work, remove costly duplication and reduce expenses in long-term management of hazardous waste. He said it will allow for the work to be completed quicker and save billions of dollars nationwide.

Roberson said she will meet with state and federal regulators later this week to continue negotiations. She said she was optimistic that an agreement could be reached.

A determination will be made within six weeks regarding a private contractor to manage the cleanup work in Paducah, Roberson said. Bechtel Jacobs currently oversees the work in Paducah, Portsmouth and Oak Ridge. DOE is considering seeking new proposals to separate the Paducah and Portsmouth work from Oak Ridge.

Although details of each project planned for 2004 were not included in the budget documents, it proposes to spend $97 million for decommissioning and decontamination of old buildings and facilities at the plant. That's an increase of $50 million over the amount in the appropriation bill for fiscal 2003.