Paducah Sun, KY

DOE review highlights cleanup efforts in 2017

By David Zoeller

Tuesday, 2 January, 2018

A new cleanup contract, a safety milestone and a re-start of the depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion were among 2017 highlights at the U.S. Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The Office of Environmental Management, which oversees cleanup operations across the DOE's entire nuclear complex in the U.S., recently issued its "2017 Year in Review," listing achievements at each site including Paducah.

"It is a priority of this department to address our cleanup responsibilities in a smart way that reduces risks, advances critical national security and science missions, protects the environment and achieves good value for American taxpayers," said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in the forward to the review.

Part of the review focuses on the important role private industry, through EM's prime contractors, plays in securing nuclear materials, reducing risks, and creating economic opportunities in communities across the nation.

The DOE announced a new, long-term cleanup contract at the Paducah site in May worth a potential $1.5 billion. The contract, awarded to Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, includes a base period of five years and subsequent options of three and two years.

In its review, DOE noted a long-term contract had been identified as a high priority by Paducah stakeholders.

"Having that contract done in the last year, and seeing that extend to five years with another five-year renewal options provides a great sense of stability for the economy," according to Mardie Herndon, chairman of the Paducah Economic Development Board of Directors.

"Some of those individuals that were working there under the (previous) two-year contract, now they're here for five, possibly 10 years. They're actually buying houses and moving here permanently, so that's really good for everyone," he said.

The DOE's Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office's revised cleanup strategy prioritizes the Paducah site's most critical cleanup priorities, Robert Edwards, PPPO manager, notes in the review.

"In 2017, we redoubled our focus toward completing the optimization of facilities and infrastructure and zeroed-in on the number one groundwater remediation priority," Edwards said.

That included optimization of the northeast plume pump-and-treat system, which controls and mitigates the migration of the off-site groundwater contamination.

Also in 2017, the depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion project, following a safety shutdown period and retooling, re-started its Paducah facilities while the Portsmouth facilities approached re-start. At the Paducah site, the DUF6 operations were transferred to a new operations and maintenance contractor, Mid-America Conversion Services.

"We're leveraging it with a partnering approach to help ensure safety and effective operation of our conversion lines at Portsmouth and Paducah," Edwards said.

Several milestones during 2017 centered around safety issues, including:

• Achieving more than 5 million safe work hours without a lost workday.

• The safeguards and security team receiving DOE's Outstanding Security Award.

• Earning the Kentucky Labor Cabinet Governor's Safety and Health Award by achieving 1 million man hours of work without a lost time incident.