Jobs boost consolation for Ohio

29 July 2009

A plan to boost the number of jobs in nuclear clean-up at Piketon, Ohio has been stressed by the US Department of Energy (DoE), after it denied assistance to a major project at the site.

Acknowledging the 750 jobs that are at risk at USEC's American Centrifuge Plant, energy secretary Steven Chu emphasised the "good, high-paying jobs" that he will create with a $150-200 million boost to the clean-up of Cold War facilities.

The DoE is paying for the boost by transferring uranium stocks in a cashless transaction. It said that using the former military stocks of uranium to support the dismantling of the old military enrichment plants was "the best way forward." The plan comes in addition to $118 million in recovery spending and budgets of $560 million for this year and next.

USEC had pinned its hopes to fund the completion of the American Centrifuge on receiving a loan guarantee from Chu's department, and said yesterday that they would 'demobilise' the project having been told their application was unsuccessful. The company had already spent some $1.5 billion on the plant but could not secure private loans for the rest of the investment without the government guarantees.

However, the DoE said that it is going to give USEC $45 million over 18 months to solve the technical troubles that made the project too risky for the loan guarantee. After that, it may meet the legal criteria for the support and USEC could file another application for a later round of guarantees.

One other enrichment project is in the running for the $2 billion in loan guarantees allocated for front-end nuclear - Areva's Eagle Rock plant in Idaho. It is not yet known if this application is successful. New reactors will take $18.5 billion in guarantees and other clean energy forms have some $10 billion. After this first round of support, the DoE is planning to establish a special office to optimise this kind of backing to allow the rapid deployment of new energy technologies.

The DoE estimated that some 300 to 400 jobs could be lost on the American Centrifuge project, but the new boost would add 800 to 1000 positions. Adding in the various new projects under the Recovery Act and subtracting a few projects that are ending, the net gain at the site would be 600 to 900 jobs, according to the DoE.

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