The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, January 09, 2004

Uranium shipment to Paducah gets probed

Staff and Wire Report

The federal government is investigating how six metric tons of blended Russian uranium wound up in North Carolina rather than its intended destination, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

After the mix-up was resolved, the shipment arrived Wednesday night at the plant and had been under tight security ever since coming into the United States, said Elizabeth Stuckle, spokeswoman for plant operator USEC Inc. "No regulations were broken. It was never unloaded."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes the mistaken shipment to a nuclear fabrication plant in Wilmington, N.C., posed no risk to anyone, said Roger Hannah, an NRC spokesman in Atlanta. "It was received at a facility authorized to take it."

Workers at Paducah enrich uranium for use as fuel for nuclear power plants. The Wilmington plant takes the fuel and shapes it for reactor use.

The trucking company that moved the diluted uranium, Transport Logistics International, accidentally sent the load along with a similarly numbered load from a dock in Norfolk, Va., to Global Nuclear Fuel LLC in Wilmington on Dec. 19.

The trucking company’s chief executive officer, Rod Fisk, said the error was quickly spotted and Global was notified the Paducah shipment also would be coming, along with Global’s intended shipment. ‘‘It was never lost.’’

USEC was notified of the mix-up after the holidays. It has bought or agreed to buy $7.5 billion worth of uranium from Russia and process it into nuclear fuel. The weapons-grade uranium is diluted before being shipped to Paducah.

The Department of Homeland Security, which investigates potential terrorism threats and security breaches, would not become involved in the investigation unless criminal intent was suspected, spokesman Ben Quevedo said.