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USEC sees another round of layoffs

BY CARRIE DILLARD cdillard@paducahsun.com

The United States Enrichment Corporation is approaching yet another round of staff reductions next week. From June 27 to July 10, approximately 85 individuals could lose their jobs at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

According to Georgann Lookofsky, public affairs manager, this will be the seventh round of layoffs since August 2013. USEC announced it would close in May 2013 after the Department of Energy did not approve an extension on its uranium enrichment operations at the plant.

USEC saw the largest reduction of its workforce in April, with 360 employees losing their jobs. Eighty-five is the maximum number of workers that could be affected this round, Lookofsky said.

Currently, fewer than 400 employees remain at the plant. All are working toward the handoff to the Department of Energy later this year, she said.

USEC took over direct operations of the Paducah plant in May 1999. The Department of Energy owns the Paducah facility which was leased to USEC.

There is no final date for the "de-lease," Lookofsky said, though it could be as early as fall.

USEC is now in negotiations with DOE in hopes of coming to an agreement about the timing, condition and configuration of the site and associated equipment.

A spokesperson with DOE said the department is in the process of acquiring a deactivation contractor to assume responsibility for the facilities after they are turned over by USEC. Among its other duties, the contractor will perform necessary contaminant removal work. 

DOE is in the process of making a selection of one of the bidders, which will be completed prior to the turnover. The department is looking to award the deactivation contract no later than October.

The department estimated the time frame for the return was between October 2014 and August 2015.

Once all of its lease requirements are met, and DOE has a contractor in place, USEC can request that its Nuclear Regulatory Commission certificate be canceled. At that time DOE's mission is to clean up the site, including (uranium storage) cylinder transfer, and contaminant removal from enrichment equipment.

The DOE spokesperson said some existing employees may be hired by the deactivation contractor as they are "expected to need more than the remaining (number of) USEC employees at the time of the de-lease to meet their contract commitments."

The spokesperson added, "The current site workforce is well trained and knowledgeable of the site and the facilities."

While USEC will not have a role in determining who is hired, Lookofsky said, she is hopeful that many of the current employees will get the opportunity. 

"As far as competing for those jobs, we don't think there is anyone who'd be more qualified that our people," she said.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.  

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