U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved his measure to require the Department of Energy to conduct an economic feasibility study on the re-enrichment of depleted uranium ("tails") located at Federal sites, including the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. McConnell moved forward with this proposal after Secretary of Energy Steven Chu failed to respond to Senator McConnell's repeated questions about the Department's plans for the plant. The McConnell language which is included in the FY'12 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, now awaits action by the full Senate.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant has been producing enriched uranium in western Kentucky for 60 years. The plant has 1,200 employees, and it currently stores 40,000 cylinders of depleted uranium at Paducah, 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.
"There is potential for some of the cylinders of depleted uranium at the government-owned facility in Paducah to be re-enriched, which would protect the jobs of the workers at the plant as well as provide a revenue stream to finance operations. There are 1,200 Kentuckians whose jobs would be immediately affected by changes to operations at the plant and hundreds of others in the community who are counting on this Administration to provide answers to some very basic questions." McConnell said. "The language in this bill is a step in the right direction in that it forces the Department of Energy to address concerns about the future of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the impact any plans, or lack of plans, would have on its workers. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to hold the Department of Energy accountable and keep them focused on its responsibilities to the workers at the Paducah facility."
The legislation calls on the Secretary of Energy to submit the study to Congress by December 31, 2011.
On May 18, 2011, Senator McConnell questioned Secretary of Energy Secretary Steven Chu about DOE's lack of a plan for re-enriching uranium tails at the Paducah plant.
On May 26, 2011, Senators McConnell and Rand Paul and Congressman Whitfield introduced the "Energy and Revenue Enrichment Act" 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.
On June, 13, 2011, Senator McConnell spoke before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power about the "Energy and Revenue Enrichment Act," which gives the Department of Energy the flexibility it needs to temporarily re-enrich tails at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.