The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Bush budget funding cuts for plant cleanup
The spending plan also would eliminate funding for community reuse organizations that create jobs for laid-off nuclear workers.

By Joe Walker

The Bush administration is seeking a steady $100 million next fiscal year for area locks and dam work, but more than $27 million less for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup and nothing for a program that helps create jobs for displaced nuclear workers.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham rolled out the cleanup numbers Monday as part of President Bush's overall budget request to Congress for fiscal 2005, starting Oct. 1. Congress will scrutinize the budget before passing its version in late summer or early fall. According to the staff of U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, the Bush request contains:

$92.8 million for plant cleanup, down from $120.2 million this year. The decline comes only four months after the Energy Department and Kentucky regulators signed a new agreement to speed up plant cleanup. DOE is seeking bids from small businesses, trying to make plant infrastructure and cleanup work more cost-efficient.

Kentucky Cabinet for Environmental and Public Protection officials said they were unaware of the request and declined comment.

Nothing for the Worker and Community Transition program, which funds community reuse organizations that create jobs for laid-off nuclear workers. That would cut off funding for the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization (PACRO), which has been a conduit for about $2.5 million in Energy Department money toward the new Purchase Area Industrial Park. PACRO's role has added emphasis now that USEC Inc. plans to close the 1,270-job Paducah plant starting in 2010 and replace it with a gas centrifuge plant in Piketon, Ohio.

"What I've suggested to everybody is we look at ways to fund the Paducah organization other than through the DOE program," said PACRO Director John Anderson. "There is a great deal of momentum to sunset it."

$75 million for Olmsted Locks and Dam work, enough to start building a $564 million dam this fall. The request, in a separate budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is $12 million more than allocated this year. Dam work is expected to last until 2012 and generate 250 peak construction jobs.

$25 million for Kentucky Lock, compared with $29.9 million this year. The expanded lock and new locks at Olmsted are designed to improve river shipping by cutting locking time in half.

$55.9 million for a new factory to convert nearly 40,000 cylinders of uranium-enrichment waste into safer material that might have commercial use. The request is $5.4 million lower than the $61.3 million budgeted this year. Uranium Disposition Services, the contractor, expects to break ground by this summer for the 150-job plant.

$7.8 million for nuclear plant safeguards and security, up from $7 million this year.

$8.12 million for a new Lexington-based office overseeing cleanup at Paducah and a closed enrichment plant at Piketon. The office received $7.81 million this year.

$43 million nationwide for a controversial program designed to compensate nuclear workers sickened from plant toxins. The added money is designed to cut down on a huge claims backlog in the program, which received $27 million this year.

PACRO’s budget has rapidly shrunk from $8 million since its first year of operation in 1999 to $150,000 this year. Anderson said the demise of community reuse organizations became apparent last month at a meeting of directors.

"This gives us about two years to generate an income stream from other sources," he said. "That can be done. It's just that everybody is going to have to work together."

Among other things, Anderson is pursuing contracts with plant cleanup and recycling firms, including cylinder-converter UDS and Los Angeles-based ToxCo, which wants to find markets for abandoned fluorine cells at the Paducah plant.