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

Both sides promise plant safety won't be compromised
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will provide extra inspection coverage.

By Bill Bartleman

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission that ensures the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is operated safely will have extra inspectors on duty today for the planned strike.

"We will have around-the-clock inspection coverage for a least the first 72 hours," said Jan Strasma, spokesman at NRC's Region III headquarters in Lisle, Ill. "Beyond that, we'll have extra inspection coverage as is necessary."

A key part of the production work is using equipment to monitor machinery that moves hazardous, mildly radioactive uranium hexafluoride gas through miles of piping miles of piping.

Strasma said that as long as management workers are trained to operate the equipment, there should be no problems.

Leon Owens, president of the local nuclear workers' union, said the union will not use safety as a leverage to gain its demands in negotiations. "I would hope that the citizens, if they do have those types of concerns, would raise those," Owens said. "We're hopeful that the integrity and safety of the facility will be maintained."

Strasma said NRC inspectors will be inside the production plant to monitor production work and ensure that staffing and safety regulations for the nuclear facility are met. Strasma did not say how many extra inspectors will join the two regularly assigned to plant.

The Kentucky Natural Resources Cabinet, which ensures that state air, water and soil regulations are met, does not plan extra inspections. "We are aware of the possibility of a strike but it will not have an impact on what we do," said Mark York, spokesman for the Natural Resources Cabinet.

"Strike or no strike, if something comes up at the plant that our people need to investigate, we'll be out there," York said.

USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said, "Our first and foremost consideration is always safe operation of the plant and the safety of our employees."

The strike is expected to have no effect on cleanup work supervised by Bechtel Jacobs and involves more than 600 workers.

Bechtel Jacobs spokesman Greg Cook said that includes about 120 of the workers who are members of Local 5-550 of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International (PACE), the same union that represents production workers.

Owens said the strike will have "no effect whatsoever" on union workers under contract with environmental cleanup firms. He said those contracts require PACE members to be at work, and picketers will not bother them.

In most cases, cleanup workers will enter through gates separate from those where PACE strikers will establish picket lines, Cook said.