Monday, August 21, 2000

Investigation into nuke plant drags on




The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking longer than expected to investigate the finances of the U.S. Enrichment Corp., the privatized federal corporation that is the nation's only domestic source of enriched uranium for power plants.

        The report was supposed to be issued early this summer. Commission spokeswoman Mindy Landau said NRC staff members are “working feverishly on it. We are hopeful it will be ready soon.”

        USEC critics say the corporation's recent financial troubles and its plan to end most operations at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant in Piketon in June threaten a requirement that the company be a “reliable and economical domestic source of enrichment services.”

        If the commission decides USEC no longer meets that requirement, it could pull the company's certification.

        Ms. Landau said regardless of what the report contains, she doesn't expect it to recommend any action.

        “If there are recommendations or conclusions ... they will have to be made by Congress,” she said.

        The Piketon plant and its sister plant in Paducah, Ky., made weapons-grade enriched uranium during the Cold War. They now produce commercial-grade uranium for nuclear power plants.

        USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle expressed disagreement with comments by Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, that the corporation will not be a reliable source of enriched uranium in the future.

        “Of course we're a reliable source,” Ms. Stuckle said. “The cost-cutting efforts we've made lately, the layoffs and the pending closure of the plant, all are efforts to make us more efficient and remain successful as a business.”

        She said the USEC is pursuing several technologies for uranium enrichment.

       



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