The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

August 8, 2007 Wednesday

Uranium answer sought: Task force seeks DOE decision on recycling proposal

Joe Walker

Aug. 8--Members of a local task force don't understand why the Department of Energy hasn't approved a nuclear-recycling plan that could generate $1 million a day in revenue for the federal government at no cost to taxpayers.

"Most people say, 'What's the down side?'" Charles Martin said. "I can't come up with a down side."

Re-enriching spent uranium at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant would eliminate a massive amount of hazardous waste and put more nuclear fuel on the market when prices are high, Martin told other members of the task force Tuesday at City Hall.

"Bureaucracy has this thing tied up, when it shouldn't," he said.

Members of the Paducah Uranium Plant Asset Utilization task force want Kentucky federal lawmakers to back them in persuading DOE to approve the recycling project.

They are preparing a "white paper" for use during the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's semiannual lobbying trip to Washington in September.

The white paper also will support locating a 1,000-job spent nuclear fuel recycling factory near the Paducah plant and recycling hundreds of millions of dollars in scrap nickel stored there.

Plant operator USEC Inc. wants to recycle the DOE-owned uranium tails to help the company pay soaring costs of power at Paducah. Community and labor leaders support the plan as long as it will extend the life of the 1,100-employee factory beyond the anticipated start of closure in 2012.

DOE senior managers have not decided the issue despite USEC lobbying efforts that started early this year. In May, five Capitol Hill leaders asked the Government Accountability Office if DOE can legally transfer the roughly $1.5 billion in spent uranium to help the cash-strapped company and how to protect the government if that happens.