The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

TV series tells story of USEC's conversion
WSIU-TV is helping broadcast the four-part documentary about the ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ program.

By Joe Walker

A USEC Inc. program converting the equivalent of 7,000 Russian warheads into nuclear fuel will be shown tonight at 8 CDT as part of the "Avoiding Armageddon" series on WSIU-TV out of Carbondale, Ill.

The four-part documentary, which started Monday night and runs through Thursday, is airing nationally on the Public Broadcasting System.

USEC, which runs the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, has completed more than a third of the 20-year, $8 billion "Megatons to Megawatts" agreement to get rid of the equivalent of 20,000 warheads. Since 1994, USEC and Russian partner TENEX have recycled bomb-grade uranium from dismantled warheads into fuel for domestic nuclear power plants.

USEC gave these facts:

Enough material has been recycled to power a city the size of Boston or Seattle for 270 years. By its 2013 completion, the program will have generated enough fuel to power the entire nation for two years.

An average of one in 10 American homes, businesses, schools and hospitals receive electricity generated from warhead fuel, and the ratio is much higher in some areas of the nation. The fuel is about half that used annually by domestic nuclear plants, which generate about 20 percent of U.S. electricity.

The nuclear power from Megatons to Megawatts is without air pollution or greenhouse gases, and equivalent to that produced by 30 million railroad coal cars, 10,000 supertankers of oil or 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

William "Nick" Timbers, USEC president and chief executive officer, said the program "has significantly enhanced world security" by steadily reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles. Virtually all the nation's more than 100 nuclear power plants have used the fuel, he said.

In February, Russia's Ministry for Atomic Energy called the program "an example of the effective realization of bilateral cooperation in real disarmament." Russia dilutes the material until it is suitable for power plants, and USEC buys it for sale to customers.

The program has been controversial, partly because the Russian uranium is much cheaper than that produced by the Paducah plant. USEC has repeatedly denied claims by striking nuclear workers that the firm is positioning itself to close the plant and become solely a broker of Russian material.

Russian and plant fuel each make up half of USEC's inventory. The company says blending the lower-cost Russian material with the plant inventory holds down overall costs, lowers prices and prolongs the life of the plant.