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Federal cleanup pact for plant still on hold

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Members of the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization continue to monitor the progress â “ or lack thereof â “ toward   federal approval of a contract for cleanup of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a step that could help many of those laid off by the plant's closing get back to work.

Charlie Martin, PACRO executive director, said the contract "is still under review" by the U.S. Department of Energy, which has yet to decide between two contractors, Fluor Corporation and AECOM. Either contractor is expected to hire many former United States Enrichment Corp. workers for the cleanup, Martin said.

PACRO is in regular contact with the DOE and the state's congressional delegation, Martin said, to stay abreast of any developments.

"We've encouraged them (DOE) any way we can to issue the contract," Martin said, of his organization's efforts. "That's the vehicle that will create jobs."

Congress approved approximately $271 million for the site cleanup in fiscal year 2014. With the fiscal year set to end Sept. 30, it appears "over $100 million will not be spent (this year)," he said.

If that happens, it may be more difficult to get Congress to maintain or increase funding in 2015. The Obama administration has proposed a cleanup budget of $207 million for Paducah in fiscal 2015, Martin said.

Last November, the DOE announced it was dealing exclusively with Global Laser Enrichment to utilize the plant's assets for future operations. PACRO is hopeful that arrangement will be finalized soon, too.

"We try to follow it," Martin said of the DOE-GLE negotiations, "We keep being told by DOE and GLE that it is moving forward. There's not anything we or the community can do to speed that up."

The community is very interested in GLE because of the long-term nature of the proposed project, which would be located on 700 acres adjacent to the PGDP. Those plans include building a new plant "that might run for decades," he said.

"(GLE) by any stretch of the imagination is a huge deal for Paducah and the state of Kentucky," Martin said, noting that the project could attract other companies to locate there as well.

While dealing with the overall process and the delays can be frustrating, Martin says he is committed to helping the displaced USEC workers, many of whom he knows personally and worked with during his 22 years with that company before taking on his PACRO duties.

"I know a lot of those people who were laid off, who lost their homes, who lost everything ... that's the thing that drives me."

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

           

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