The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Uranium conversion plants impact statements due in July

By Joe Walker jwalker@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

Final environmental impact statements for plants in Paducah and Ohio that will convert low-level nuclear waste into safer material should be ready by July 31, the federally mandated date their construction must begin.

"We plan to have the final EIS by June 23 and publish a record of decision by July 23," said Gary Hartman, Department of Energy document manager for the two statements, one each for Paducah and Piketon. "It's a schedule we have to meet. Congress expects us to do that."

About 50 people attended a public hearing Tuesday night on a draft EIS. Four spoke, including two who expressed concerns about transporting the material from a closed uranium enrichment plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to Piketon. The Piketon facility will convert the Oak Ridge waste as well as that of the closed Piketon enrichment plant.

The Paducah factory, operated by Uranium Disposition Services, will convert about 38,000 cylinders of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant into safer uranium oxide. Those cylinders will not have to be shipped for conversion. UF6 is mildly radioactive and emits toxic hydrogen fluoride when exposed to moisture.

McCracken County Judge-Executive Danny Orazine said the community supports the conversion facility. It is expected to generate $60 million in work, including 100-150 construction jobs over two years and 150 operational jobs for 20 to 25 years.

UDS will help sell the hydrogen fluoride extracted from the material and look for oxide markets to help the Energy Department pay for part of the approximate $100 million construction costs of each of the plants.

The Energy Department will continue taking public comments until Feb. 2. They may be sent to Gary Hartman, DOE Oak Ridge Operations, P.O. Box 2001, Oak Ridge, TN 37831; e-mailed to Pad_DUF6@anl.gov; faxed toll-free to 866-530-0943, or submitted on the Internet at web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/eis. The toll-free voice line is 866-530-0944.