WASHINGTON — President Bush’s new budget will include money to build a uranium waste processing center in Piketon that could bring hundreds of new jobs to the area, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, said Wednesday.
The uranium waste processing plant will hire up to 200 permanent workers and 300 construction workers, Voinovich said.
“Together with Piketon being named as the site to test next-generation enrichment technology, this news is a pretty good Christmas present for southern Ohio,” the senator said.
Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, will represent Pike County after Jan. 1 and said Wednesday’s announcement was more great news for the region.
“The project is proceeding as scheduled and that means more jobs for our area, both in the short run and the long run,” he said. “This is another important step in helping to revitalize southern Ohio and the communities that surround the plant.”
More than 900 workers have been laid off at the 4,300-acre Piketon uranium enrichment plant in the last two years, but the announcement is the second piece of good economic news for area residents this month.
Bethesda, Md.-based U.S. Enrichment Corp. on Dec. 4 picked the Portsmouth plant as the site for a $150 million facility to test a new method to refine uranium for nuclear power plant fuel. The test facility will need 50 workers.
Bush’s new budget, which will be released next month, will cover the fiscal year 2004 beginning Oct. 1, 2003. Officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed money for the center would be requested, but would not say how much.
“They don’t always release that before the budget is out,” Voinovich’s spokesman Scott Milburn said.
Despite White House backing, the money is not guaranteed. Congress could reduce the president’s request or even eliminate funding.
The Energy Department awarded Uranium Disposition Services LLC in Oak Ridge, Tenn., a 10-year, $558 million contract in August to operate depleted uranium hexafluoride waste processing centers at Piketon and in Paducah, Ky.
The president’s funding request also will include money for the Paducah site, White House officials said.
Depleted uranium hexafluoride is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. Uranium Disposition Services will remove fluoride from the waste, converting it to safer uranium oxide that can be stored at low-level radioactive waste facilities. The fluoride will be sold to industries.
There are 195,000 tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride stored in 16,041 heavy metal casks at Piketon and 443,000 tons in 36,910 casks at Paducah. An additional 55,000 tons stored at a uranium processing center in Oak Ridge will be transferred to Piketon.