U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell questioned the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu Wednesday during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill.
Sen. McConnell focused his attention on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which has been producing enriched uranium in western Kentucky for 60 years. The plant has twelve-hundred employees, and it currently stores 40,000 cylinders of depleted uranium at Paducah (otherwise known as "tails"), which has the potential to be re-enriched to make a profit. These are government resources, highly valued, stored in a lot, which could be sold to create revenue for our government.
During the hearing, Secretary Chu said that the Department of Energy has no plan for re-enriching uranium tails at the Paducah plant.
McConnell said, "will we re-enrich the tails and actually make money for the government or if we aren't going to do that will the government pay for cleanup, because we've been getting the cleanup funding on an annual basis but there's apparently no plan in your budget for cleanup after the operation cease. So under this scenario it strikes me that the government loses an opportunity for revenue, we lose 1,200 jobs, and you're not funding the cleanup which would cost you money, whereas, re-enriching the tails would actually gain the government money."
Secretary Chu said he would get back to Senator McConnell on his plan for Paducah. "The fact that the Department of Energy is not prepared to address additional uranium enrichment during a time of fiscal crisis is staggering. I hope to hear from the Secretary on his plan for the future of the Paducah plant and its impacts on the workers there," Sen. McConnell said after the hearing.