PIKETON — This beleaguered southern Ohio community will be the site of America’s first “clean energy park” and the proposed site of what would be Ohio’s first new nuclear reactor in two decades, elected officials and corporate leaders announced Thursday, June 18.
Dignitaries at a press conference said the reactor would employ 4,000-5,000 workers during construction, and 400-700 permanent workers.
The reactor is a joint project of Duke Energy, one of the two electric utilities operating in the Miami Valley, the French reactor vendor Areva, Unistar Nuclear Energy and USEC Inc., which enriches uranium for reactor fuel rods.
Duke Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Rogers said it is a “historic alliance that will help make a clean energy future a reality for our state and our nation.”
The new Southern Ohio Clean Energy Park Alliance will prepare a plant siting study and licensing documents for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gov. Ted Strickland said.
Officials at the news conference said the reactor would be part of a nuclear renaissance that will help address global warming because nuclear doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, and stimulate the economy with jobs and tax revenue.
The park would include an Areva-made Evolutionary Power Reactor, which “features enhanced safety and simplified operations and maintenance,” according to Areva. The company is building four of the reactors, one each in Finland and France and two in China. “EPR is a fortress,” Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon said in Piketon. “Nothing can get out, nothing can get in.”
The announcement comes as the government works toward decontaminating the vast site of the closed Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the Cold War era enrichment facility on the 3,700-acre federal complex at Piketon. The site is tainted with radioactive and chemical hazards.
USEC hopes to build its American Centrifuge Plant on the complex. It would be the only U.S.-owned uranium enrichment plant in the country, replacing USEC’s 1950s-era Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky. USEC is awaiting word on whether it will get federal loan guarantees to finance the multi-billion-dollar centrifuge. Areva also has applied for loan guarantees for a competing centrifuge project.
Also at the Piketon complex is a commercial facility to reprocess depleted uranium hexaFLUORIDE “tails” left behind at Piketon so it can be more safely transported for disposal.
Pike County in Appalachian southern Ohio is one of the state’s poorest areas, with an unemployment rate of 15.1 percent, compared to 10.2 percent statewide. That’s the third-worst rate of Ohio’s 88 counties.
“We’ve had many doors closed in our face,” said U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland. “But you guys in Pike County just dust yourselves off and you keep going. We’ve always known together we could change Pike County — and together we are.”