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Longer cleanup contract encourages community officials

By DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

L

ocal officials are encouraged by two key developments

over the past year at the U.S.

Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Both the proposed longer-term contract for cleanup services at the plant, and the beginning of the process to identify and transfer surplus assets to local control to help fund economic development efforts have drawn praise from community leaders.

The PGDP site consists of 3,556 acres in McCracken County, 10 miles west of Paducah. The gaseous diffusion plant, within a 750-acre fenced security area, opened in 1952 as a government-owned and operated facility, supplying uranium for national security and energy production for 60 years.

The DOE estimates that in its 60 years of operation, the plant pumped more than $5 billion into the regional economy.

The United States Enrichment Corporation had leased the plant from DOE, since it was privatized by the government in 1998, and enriched uranium there for the global nuclear fuel market until ceasing operations in 2013. In 2014, the site was returned to DOE control and a primary contractor, Fluor Federal Services, was awarded a three-year contact to continue plant cleanup and deactivation.

That contract is set to expire in July 2017.

The DOE issued a draft request for proposals earlier this year for deactivation and remediation services at the plant for a prospective period of 10 years, news welcomed by the community.

"It's obviously a positive development economically," said McCracken County Judge-Executive Bob Leeper.

"I think it's a win all the way around," said Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler. "We as a community have all worked very hard to foster a good relationship with DOE."

"Fluor, as a company, has done an outstanding job of trying to be a good community citizen and participate in a lot of activities," said Ken Wheeler, a member of the Paducah Citizens Advisory board, which is chartered by DOE.

"Fluor had to bring in a number of their employees from other sites. Those folks, understandably, may not be interested in investing a lot of money in a house or other facilities in town if they don't know whether they're going to have a role here," Wheeler said. "That's one reason we've lobbied so hard with DOE to try and get a longer-term contract."

The Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization is designated by DOE to be the single point of contact for the identification and reuse of surplus assets from the Paducah plant. The sale of those assets is to be used for economic development to help mitigate the adverse effect of the plant ceasing operations.

The DOE recently transferred ownership of nearly 15,000 tons of excess coal to PACRO, which sold it to a coal distributor.

The excess coal is the result of the DOE switching from coal-powered boilers to five natural gas units to support plant activities and heat offices during the winter months.

"This is a win-win for DOE and the region," said Jennifer Woodard, the DOE's Paducah site lead. "Working with PACRO will help move us forward in the cleanup of the site, while providing excess assets to support economic development."

"We're excited to see tangible financial opportunities for PACRO through our collaboration with DOE and the ongoing cleanup," said Kaler, who also serves as chairwoman of the PACRO board.

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