The U.S. Department of Energy selected a contractor Tuesday to oversee cleanup operations at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, long seen as the first step in helping many of those laid off by the plant's closing get back to work.
The DOE selected Fluor Federal Services Inc., a global engineering, procurement and construction firm headquartered in Irving, Texas, for deactivation activities at the plant, currently leased to the United States Enrichment Corp. The estimated value of the contract is $420 million over three years.
According to the DOE, the award will support transitioning and preparing the site for deactivation and decommissioning of the former uranium enrichment facilities. The contract provides "extensive and detailed hiring preferences for the available, highly skilled labor force," the DOE said.
Reaction to the announcement late Tuesday afternoon was swift from local, state and federal officials.
In a joint statement released by Paducah Economic Development, Mayor Gayle Kaler, McCracken County Judge-Executive Van Newberry, Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce President Sandra Wilson and PED President Chad Chancellor said: "It is an extremely important action by the DOE for our community. The cleanup of the site will require decades to accomplish and cost billions of dollars. This contract will be the vehicle to begin this important work.
"The protection and safety of our community as the DOE begins to dismantle this huge complex and remediate the environmental impacts from 60-plus years of operations is of paramount concern to all. Our community is committed to maintaining its partnership role with the DOE, the state, our congressional delegation, and Fluor to accomplish this work."
Gov. Steve Beshear said, "This is good news for all of Kentucky, the Paducah region in particular ... I am very pleased the federal government is moving on this important project."
U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Congressman Ed Whitfield said, "Last year we fought hard to secure funding for the deactivation of the gaseous diffusion plant and environmental cleanup at the Paducah site and since then have pushed DOE to expedite this contract so vital cleanup work may begin. We are pleased that DOE has responded by awarding the contract for deactivation, which we hope will create job opportunities in the community."
Services to be provided under the contract include project management, facility modification and infrastructure optimization, decontamination and demolition, and environmental services. The plant is located on a 3,423-acre federal reservation approximately 10 miles west of Paducah.
"This gives us an opportunity to create employment for workers who just lost their jobs," said Charlie Martin, Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization executive director. "They (laid-off workers) are highly trained, working in the plant for decades. They know how to safely and efficiently perform the cleanup work."
The DOE had narrowed the field of contractors to two, Fluor and AECOM, either of which Martin said is highly qualified.
"We look forward to discussions with Fluor as they roll out the transition, mobilize and commence work," Martin said. "My understanding is they want to move as fast as they can."
Martin said the contractor will likely be ready to move soon, perhaps in a matter of days, not weeks or months.
"I certainly hope so," he said. "This is a significant event for the community, something everybody has put a lot of effort into. It's something that's been on everyone's mind."
Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.