Thursday, June 22, 2000

Uranium plant shutting down

1,400 will lose jobs in Piketon

By Katherine Rizzo
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — The only U.S. company that provides fuel for nuclear power reactors will shut down production next year at one of the nation's two uranium enrichment plants, in Piketon, it said Wednesday.

        The decision by U.S. Enrichment Corp. will eliminate at least 1,400 jobs in a part of Appalachia with few well-paying industrial jobs.

        USEC will keep a small part of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in southern Ohio open with a few hundred workers for four to five years, until its other plant in Paducah, Ky., is upgraded.

        USEC said it can't charge civilian nuclear plants enough to cover the cost of two plants because the price of uranium has fallen.

        “With high production costs and production at only 25 percent capacity at both plants, we must consolidate,” company president William Timbers said.

        USEC is a former government enterprise that was spun off in a $1.9 billion stock deal in 1998 that required it to keep both plants open until 2005. The compa ny told federal officials this week that its credit rating was bad enough to activate an escape clause that allowed it to shut one of the plants sooner.

        By this week, its stock had fallen by more than 70 percent from its 52-week high. The company is projecting after-tax profits in fiscal 2001 of $30 million to $35 million, down from $121.5 million last year.

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