Honeywell is calling back employees for a scheduled June reopening of its Metropolis plant.
The chemical plant converts uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride, UF6, a compound used to produce enriched uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants.
About 135 salaried and 135 hourly employees will be in place when the Metropolis Works facility restarts, the company projects.
“These initial staffing levels are lower than in the past, and they reflect current market demand and UF6 volumes required by our customers,” plant manager Larry Smith said in a letter to employees last week. “In addition, our plant has been idle for a significant amount of time and we will need to re-establish ourselves as a reliable supplier for our current customers and to attract new customers.”
The plant closed last May for upgrades to make it compliant with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements put in place after the 2011’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a breakdown at a nuclear reactor.
The hourly employees are represented by United Steelworkers Local 7-669 and while not all employees were called back for the June reopening, local president Stephen Lech said the union is confident more workers will be back on the job in coming months.
“That 135 number is just for the June 1st startup but when full production resumes, we expect more will be recalled,” he said. “Overall, we’re pleased with it. It’s good news.”
The union represented about 180 employees before the May shutdown but some of them have retired or taken jobs elsewhere, he said.
“It’s hard to blame them. As a group, since June 2010, they’ve worked (at the Metropolis plant) about nine months because of layoffs. It’s not what anyone would call stable employment,” he said.
Staffing should be completed by mid-May to ensure that employees are trained and certified in advance of any production restart, Smith said in the letter to employees.