U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY-01), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, joined by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul today introduced the Energy and Revenue Enrichment Act of 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The bill would generate revenue for environmental cleanup while also maintaining jobs at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
The bills would initiate a pilot program to re-enrich depleted uranium tails, which contain still useable quantities of uranium that can be obtained by re-enrichment. The tails currently are located onsite at Paducah's enrichment plant as well as at a plant in Portsmouth, OH. This pilot program would reduce the amount of waste at the sites by as much as 30,000 tons, save the taxpayers $135 million in avoided conversion and waste disposal, as well as help to avoid the environmental impact of disposal. In a hearing before a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on April 3, 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified that the uranium tails could be worth as much as $20 billion and assumed the net value could be $7.6 billion based on 2008 market conditions.
"This bill is a win-win-win; a win for the taxpayer, a win for employees in Paducah, and a win for the environment. This legislation would extend 1,200 jobs, generate billions in revenue, and reduce the amount of waste to be disposed of by more than 30,000 tons," said Whitfield. "Further, at a time when every level of government spending must be closely reviewed, re-enriching these uranium tails will provide revenue to help pay for the continued cleanup costs at the Paducah and Portsmouth enrichment plant sites."
"There is potential for some of the 40,000 cylinders of depleted uranium at the government-owned facility in Paducah to be re-enriched to make a profit for the government. Without action from the Department of Energy to approve this additional enrichment work, Paducah's economy is at serious risk," Sen. McConnell said. "Last week, during a Senate Committee hearing, I raised this critical concern with Secretary of Energy Chu, however, the Department did not have an answer as to what it planned to do to meet its responsibilities to Paducah. Therefore, Congressman Whitfield, Senator Paul and I are taking steps on behalf of the workers, the City of Paducah, and western Kentucky to assist DOE in creating a plan to make the government money while saving Kentucky jobs."
"Re-enriching the uranium tails is a common-sense solution that protects Kentucky jobs and helps fund the cleanup efforts of the Paducah enrichment plant site. This bill makes sense for both the American taxpayer and the residents of Paducah," Sen. Paul said.
The Paducah gaseous diffusion plant has been scheduled to be retired in 2012. The Whitfield/McConnell/Paul legislation would help to extend the jobs at the Paducah plant the tails are re-enriched and sold on the market.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively.