Government let Piketon cleanup dollars lapse

August 2, 2014

On July 18, the Gazette ran an article, “Piketon cleanup operation warns of 500-plus job cuts,” about the potential for hundreds of workers to lose their jobs at the site of the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The story is missing some of the facts.

It’s true the government sells uranium from its inventory to pay for the cleanup and major declines in the uranium price are making it more challenging to raise adequate funding for the project. However, the jobs only are on the line because the U.S. Department of Energy, knowing uranium prices are low, failed to budget sufficient dollars for the project. Uranium Producers of America is not opposed to the accelerated cleanup of the Portsmouth site. We recognize this is a critical priority for the community. Unfortunately, the administration’s budget for fiscal year 2015 did not request full funding for the cleanup.

If this project is a priority and the administration wants to save these jobs, I’m confident the department easily can reallocate $150 million in a $27 billion budget to fully fund the cleanup. Until uranium prices recover, the administration should limit the sales of its uranium inventory and fund the cleanup of the Portsmouth facility though the appropriation process. This will protect jobs in the short-term and ensure taxpayers receive the full value for the uranium in the long-term.

Scott Melbye, president of Uranium Producers of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico