Thursday, December 5, 2002

Piketon plant welcomes new work

The Associated Press

PIKETON, Ohio - Winning a project to test a new way to produce nuclear fuel will enable a southern Ohio uranium plant to continue its long heritage of helping meet the nation's energy and security needs, the plant's union president said.

The announcement Wednesday by USEC Inc. that it chose the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant for a $150 million facility to test centrifuge technology also provides a strong financial boost for the region, said Dan Minter, president of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy union.

The plant in Piketon was in competition for the project with a sister plant in Paducah, Ky.

Gary Hager, president of the plant's security guard union, said the announcement probably will prevent heavy layoffs of guards planned for next September. The plant now is looking for new guards to hire, he said.

"This is a big boost to the whole community," Mr. Hager said.

The plant's general manager, Patrick Musser, said the project will allow USEC to showcase its ability to enrich uranium. Getting the test project was the Piketon plant's first step toward securing a permanent plant using centrifuge technology, he said.

USEC plans to have the testing facility operating by 2005. If all goes well, the Bethesda, Md.-based company plans to build a permanent commercial plant using this technology by 2010.

A permanent operation would cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion and bring 500 to 600 jobs to the plant.

Gov. Bob Taft said the 50 jobs the test project will provide will have salaries of more than $55,000.

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