USEC Inc. has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy that will extend uranium enrichment operations at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and preserve some 1,200 jobs.
The agreement converts U.S. government depleted uranium into nuclear fuel to power and light homes in the Pacific Northwest and the Tennessee Valley and will delay costs to the U.S. government associated with maintaining the facility in safe shutdown if it were to cease enrichment operations at the end of this month. It continues USEC’s position as TVA’s largest industrial electricity customer while minimizing any impact on the domestic uranium market.
The one-year transition will allow time for public officials and the community to formulate plans for productive use of the DOE site once uranium enrichment activity ceases.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which is owned by the DOE but leased and operated by USEC, is the only uranium enrichment facility capable of providing U.S.-origin uranium (enriched with U.S. technology) needed for the government’s tritium replenishment program, which supports maintaining the country’s nuclear deterrent. The plant is the largest uranium enrichment plant in the United States and accounts for nearly all current U.S. enriched uranium production.
In a statement issued following the agreement, U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Congressman Ed Whitfield said, “This proposal is a win-win-win for taxpayers, workers and national security as it will reduce the amount of waste at the plant that will ultimately need to be disposed and save the federal government nearly $150 million in avoided maintenance costs for the Paducah plant, extend nearly 1,200 jobs, and create a source of uranium that can be used for our national security needs. Additionally, keeping this plant open provides a pathway to ensure our nation continues to have a domestic enrichment supplier to meet our national security needs.”