The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, October 31, 2003

Cleanup offering profit jobs
Uranium Disposition Services wants to consider area companies in awarding contracts to build a uranium conversion plant in Paducah.

By Joe Walker

Businessman Gary Jackson, who grew up near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, wondered if the government would ever clean up 38,000 cylinders of hazardous waste stored there.

About 10 years ago, he served on a plant advisory committee that repeatedly called for getting rid of the spent uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a low-level radioactive waste resembling rock salt that can be highly caustic if exposed to moisture in the air. It took a 1998 act of Congress to make waste disposal happen.

On Thursday, Jackson sat in a crowd of more than 400 people vying for $60 million in work related to converting the waste into safer material for which the Department of Energy hopes to find commercial use. He still lives 1 miles from a conversion complex that Uranium Disposition Services will build in front of the uranium enrichment plant. It will generate 100-150 construction jobs over two years and 150 operational jobs for 20 to 25 years.

Jackson listened from two other perspectives: as a commissioner of West McCracken Water District, which will supply the water-intensive complex, and as local market manager for Lone Star Industries, one of the nation's largest suppliers of concrete. The conversion plant will require extensive concrete for foundation and paving work.

"It's gratifying to know there is finally going to be action taken to eliminate a substantial number of these cylinders," Jackson said. "It's a follow-up issue that I'm very, very interested in."

Across the large convention room at J.R.'s Executive Inn, Jack Rudy surmised what a piece of the business could mean to his family operation, Rudy's Farm Service at Kevil. Having branched into safety and environmental equipment, Rudy's derives about one-fifth of its sales from the plant.

"Part of surviving today is change," he said. "We were already struggling, and if it hadn't been for the plant business, I don't know where we would be."

Rudy hopes his firm can provide such things as hardware and welding supplies, trailers and safety equipment and clothing. He also wants to lease land near the plant for warehousing to support the conversion plant.

Although the contractors' meeting drew people from as far away as Atlanta, UDS officials said they will award as much of the work as possible to area firms. From extensive profiles gained at the meeting, UDS will identify lists of potential companies and award contracts so that site work can start next spring.

"We want to work the local and regional businesses," said Marion Mitchell, head of UDS procurement. "That only makes good sense."

Design, construction and operation of a conversion plant will involve some large companies, but Mitchell said small firms and businesses classified as disadvantaged could qualify for more than $24 million in work at Paducah and Piketon, Ohio, where a similar plant will be built. Contractors here will be allowed to bid on Ohio work and vice versa.

Based in Oak Ridge, Tenn., UDS says early work will involve clearing land, running underground utilities, extending and improving rail lines and building a foundation on land across the enrichment plant entrance road from the Energy Department site office.

Built on nine acres, the complex will have an administration building, a warehouse, a conversion building and three smaller support structures. The metal buildings will range from about 1,500 square feet to the conversion plant's 60,000 square feet.

A long list of contract work includes structural, plumbing, electrical and mechanical trades, drywall, painting, safety, training, security, fire protection, financial services and medical services.

The conversion plant, which will be built last, will need a 480-volt substation and related switching, 13 large tanks, pumps, valves, instruments, electrical parts and equipment, and monorail systems to handle the 14-ton cylinders.

"This is where I believe the community reaps a significant benefit," Mitchell told the crowd, "because it stabilizes a market for a lot of you."


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