The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, August 16, 2003

New USEC plant hoped as Patton nears terms end
Paducah's choice is being promoted by the governor, who says the selection during his term would benefit the state.

By Bill Bartleman

Gov. Paul Patton said that as he approaches the final four months of his administration, his highest priority in economic development is to persuade USEC Inc. to build its new $1.5 billion gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant in Paducah.

USEC moved its decision on where to build the 500-job plant from next spring to October. Kentucky is competing with Piketon, Ohio, which is believed to have an advantage because USEC picked it last year for a demonstration plant.

Patton, whose term ends Dec. 8, said it could be to Kentucky's advantage for the decision to be made while he's in office, rather than leaving it up to the next governor to submit a competitive incentive package. The current administration has a history in dealing with USEC, he said, because it presented a proposal last year for the demonstration plant.

"With all due respect, the candidates for governor do not have the resources or the knowledge or the background to know what can or cannot be done," Patton said. "We are reviewing what we learned in the last process to help us in this process."

Patton said that when the incentive package is completed, he'll brief legislative leaders and seek their support. "It is a legislative issue and will require legislative action," Patton said. "I'll make sure there's a commitment from the legislative leadership to pass it during the 2004 session."

Patton also said that at the appropriate time, he will meet with local leaders to seek their support for the incentive package and add incentives of their own. He also promised that details of the package would be made public. "We want what we propose to be known so that people can see we've made a maximum effort," he said.

USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said the company still plans to send bid requests to Kentucky and Ohio "by the middle of August." However, she would not be more specific on the date the requests would go out.

USEC said in the past that the biggest drawback to building the new plant in Paducah is the concern over its being located in an earthquake zone. Making the new facility earthquake-resistant would increase construction costs. Patton has said Kentucky would try to overcome the concern in its incentive package.

The target date for opening the new plant is 2010 if it is built in Ohio and 2011 if it is built in Kentucky, according to USEC officials. Once the new plant is in full operation, the Paducah plant, using the 60-year-old gaseous diffusion technology, would be phased out.

The Paducah plant has about 1,300 employees.