The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

Uranium plant site funding endorsed

Congressional approval of $105 million for cleanup, $42.9 million for uranium hexafluoride project is predicted

Joe Walker

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Paducah area stands to receive much of the roughly $333 million approved for Kentucky projects by the House/Senate Conference Committee as requested by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Included Monday night in the fiscal 2006 Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Report, the funding is expected to be approved by the House and Senate later this week, McConnell said. It then will go to President Bush for his signature.

McConnell, R-Louisville, is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the conference committee. He said the legislation has:

 $105 million for continued cleanup at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, including additional funds to accelerate the characterization and offsite disposal of scrap metal and low-level radioactive waste.

 $85.8 million to build depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) plants at Paducah and Piketon, Ohio. Paducah is expected to receive $42.9 million of the sum for a factory to convert 39,000 canisters of the hazardous waste into a more stable compound. The plant will create 200 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs.

 Language calling for an independent study of 1,825 of the Paducah cylinders to determine if phosgene is present. McConnell wrote the provision in response to recent news reports that traces of the chemical — acquired by the Department of Energy from the Army´s Chemical Warfare Service in the 1940s and 1950s — might be causing corrosion in some of the canisters. Despite a September DOE inspector general´s memo to the contrary, Energy Department officials recently briefed members of the Kentucky delegation that only 31 Paducah cylinders are suspect and it is “very unlikely’ that phosgene is present.

“I understand DOE believes that phosgene poses no risk to workers or the community,’ McConnell said, “but I believe it is worth seeking an independent opinion before the conversion facility begins operations in 2007.’

 $465,000 toward continued operation of a mobile health unit that screens current and former Paducah plant workers for early signs of lung cancer. The unit also travels to Piketon and Oak Ridge, Tenn.

 A provision calling for an independent study to determine the best use of the plant property after the plant closes and is cleaned up. The language was requested by he Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization, an economic development group. PACRO director John Anderson said earlier that the study might take three years and would address whether the Energy Department should offer to buy contaminated property of plant neighbors.

 $23 million for an ongoing project to double the size of Kentucky Lock to handle increased tonnage of larger barge traffic. The Bush administration previously had no new money for the work, now 25 percent complete.

 $90 million for the new Olmsted Locks and Dam, stretching from Olmsted, Ill., to the Kentucky shore. The project will replace locks 52 and 53 on the Ohio River, and be the largest locking facility in Kentucky in terms of tonnage.

The conference report also has $70 million for an ongoing expansion of McAlpine Locks and Dam at Louisville, and nearly $2 million for energy-related projects involving the University of Louisville.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, who gave House support, applauded the “key funding victories for public safety and enhanced growth in western Kentucky.’