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Uranium Enrichment - Current Issues (USEC Paducah and Portsmouth plants, USA)

(last updated 27 Nov 2013)

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U.S. Enrichment Corporation external link
USEC Inc SEC filings external link

USEC Paducah (Kentucky) and Portsmouth (Ohio) enrichment plants

NRC Docket Nos. 07007001 (Paducah), 07007002 (Portsmouth)

Paducah aerial views: Google Maps external link · MSRMaps external link
Portsmouth aerial views: Google Maps external link · MSRMaps external link

> See also: USEC Portsmouth "American Centrifuge Plant" project (extra page)

 

> View more recent issues: Paducah · Portsmouth

Employees of uranium gaseous diffusion plants carry a higher risk of lung cancer mortality, study finds

Employees of uranium gaseous diffusion plants carry a higher risk of lung cancer mortality; the mortality is associated with increased radiation exposure and duration of employment: In a cohort of 6820 nuclear industry workers employed from 1952 to 2003 at the Paducah uranium gaseous diffusion plant (PGDP) lung cancer mortality risk was elevated among workers who experienced external radiation > 3.5 mrem [35 µSv] and employment duration > 12 years.
Lung Cancer Mortality among Uranium Gaseous Diffusion Plant Workers: A Cohort Study 1952-2004, by L W Figgs, in: The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 3 (July 2013), p. 128-140

Pressure spike during unloading of UF6 cylinder causes contamination event at Paducah enrichment plant

"On April 30, 2013, while changing the feed from Building C-337A Position 3 East to Position 3 West autoclaves, operators noticed a pressure spike on the 3 East cylinder of approximately 40 psi. After disconnecting the cylinder in position 3 East with Health Physics (HP) assistance, HP found contamination on the cylinder, on the grating within the autoclave, and on the autoclave locking ring."
"Once the back pressure spike occurred, it caused some of the heel material daughter products, Th-234 and Pa-234m, in minute particulate form, to become suspended in the cylinder 'atmosphere.' The ensuing jetting of the cylinder then drew this particulate through the valve into the pigtail. During the pigtail disconnection, the particulate was released into the atmosphere and was the source of the contamination."
> USEC Event Report ER 13-01 external link, June 28, 2013

USEC shuts down Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant

USEC Inc. announced today that it had not been able to conclude a deal for the short-term extension of uranium enrichment at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky, and the company will begin ceasing uranium enrichment at the end of May. (USEC May 24, 2013)
The U.S. Department of Energy has rejected a proposal that would have extended operations at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The plant had been scheduled for closure last year, but it got a reprieve under a temporary deal to enrich depleted uranium for Tennessee Valley Authority and Energy Northwest, a utility in Washington state. (Herald-Leader May 24, 2013)

NRC invites comment on renewal of Certificate of Compliance for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

Submit comments by June 21, 2013.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 99 (Wednesday, May 22, 2013) p. 30342-30343 (download full text external link)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0099 external link

Funding source for cleanup of Paducah uranium enrichment plant uncertain

A funding source and start date for the cleanup of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is uncertain as officials try to grapple with budget issues and when the facility will cease operations. Portsmouth-Paducah Project Office Manager Bill Murphie told The Paducah Sun that funds designated for decontamination and decommission of plants in Paducah, Portsmouth, Ohio and Oak Ridge, Tenn., are inadequate.
The U.S. Department of Energy will assume responsibility for the plant when it stops re-enrichment operations May 31, unless a contract extension is worked out. The current schedule for decontamination and decommissioning sets the work being finished by 2019. (Portsmouth Daily Times Mar. 26, 2013)

Small UF6 leaks at Paducah uranium enrichment plant

> USEC Event Report ER-12-02 external link, Feb. 15, 2013 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML13056A417)

 

DOE request for expressions of interest for Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant facilities and DOE depleted and off-specification UF6 inventories

DOE selects GLE proposal for re-enrichment of depleted uranium stocks with laser-based uranium enrichment plant to be built at Paducah site The U.S. Department of Energy announced today (Nov. 27) that it will open negotiations with Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) for the sale of the depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory. The Department determined that GLE offered the greatest benefit to the government among those who responded to a Request for Offers (RFO) released earlier this year. Through the RFO review process, the Department also decided to enter into negotiations with AREVA for the off-specification uranium hexafluoride inventory.
GLE proposed licensing, constructing, and operating a new laser enrichment facility that could potentially provide significant compensation to the Department for its depleted uranium hexafluoride inventories, as well as supporting U.S. policy interests and utilization of the Paducah site.
The AREVA proposal utilizes its nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Richland, Washington, to process the off-specification uranium hexafluoride as blend stock for domestic nuclear reactor fuel. AREVA has well-established technology and licensed operations for blending this type of material with other uranium feed material.
> View DOE EM release Nov. 27, 2013 external link

USEC submits proposal for continued operation of Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant: The company that operates the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in western Kentucky has applied to the federal government to keep the facility operating beyond May 31. United States Enrichment Corp. Vice President Paul Jacobson says the company submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy in February. Jacobson told The Paducah Sun USEC submitted the proposal to keep the company's options open going forward. (AP Apr. 15, 2013)

Companies submit proposal for continued operation of Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant for re-enrichment of depleted uranium: On April 8, 2013, International Isotopes Inc. external link and Advanced Process Technology Systems, LLC have announced that they have submitted a response to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) request for Expression of Interest (EOI) for the operation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) facilities and utilization of DOE's depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6).

GE-Hitachi proposes to build laser-based uranium enrichment plant at Paducah site:
> View here

DOE invites expressions of interest for Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant facilities and DOE depleted and off-specification UF6 inventories:
Responses must be submitted by Feb 21, 2013.
> Download: Request for expressions of interest for DOE Paducah gaseous diffusion plant facilities and DOE depleted and off-specification UF6 inventories external link, Feb. 6, 2013 (40k PDF)
> View related documents external link

 

Silex evaluates opportunity to build laser enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky, to re-enrich depleted uranium

> View here

USEC likely to shut down Paducah uranium enrichment plant in May 2013

After fighting to continue operations at its Paducah, Kentucky, uranium enrichment plant earlier this year, USEC said Thursday (Nov. 1) it would likely cease enrichment operations there in May 2013 and rely on sales of Russian-sourced fuel and current inventories to meet its contracts until the company's troubled Advanced Centrifuge plant comes online in several years. (Platts Nov. 1, 2012)

Crane operators at Paducah enrichment plant cause several collisions involving uranium hexafluoride cylinders

On Aug. 13, 2012, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to USEC for three incidents where cylinders containing uranium hexafluoride struck other cylinders or parts of the building, while being moved by overhead cranes.
> Download NRC Integrated Inspection Report No. 70-7001/2012-003 and Notice of Violation, Aug. 13, 2012 external link

Shutdown of Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant deferred for one year -- to re-enrich depleted uranium for military purposes

On May 15, 2012, the Department of Energy - in collaboration with Energy Northwest (ENW), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and USEC Inc. - announced the finalized details of a transfer of depleted uranium to ENW that will be enriched at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant during the next year and ultimately result in fuel for ENW and TVA.
The Department's transfer is the initial step in an arrangement between the collaborating organizations that includes:  the transfer of a portion of the Department's high-assay depleted uranium tails to ENW; commercial contracts between EN and USEC for about a year's worth of enrichment services; the sale of low-enriched uranium (LEU) from ENW to the TVA; and the extension of an agreement between TVA and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to produce tritium for the nation's nuclear deterrent.
The project will ensure a supply of U.S.-origin unobligated uranium to support the NNSA tritium production for up to 15 years. In addition, continuing operations of the Paducah plant will provide an extra year for the Department’s Office of Environmental Management to plan for the eventual decommissioning and cleanup of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and, based on estimates from USEC, provide jobs for over a thousand workers.  The potential benefits to DOE from transferring the depleted uranium include the reduced costs of producing tritium through alternative methods, as well as the costs that were avoided by needing to maintain the facility in safe shutdown for one less year than would have otherwise been necessary.
Under the deal, (from U.S. DOE release of May 15, 2012)

Utility to buy unneeded re-enriched uranium to keep Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant busy, as DOE lacks budget for decommissioning (!)

The Energy Northwest external link Executive Board voted Thursday (May 10) to spend $711 million to buy fuel it will not use until 2021 to 2028 in an unusual deal to supply its nuclear power plant near Richland. It would sell some of the fuel to the Tennessee Valley Authority for $731 million.
DOE proposed the deal to help keep a gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Ky., operating. The plant is in danger of shutting down this year because its technology is outdated, but DOE lacks the budget for decommissioning it, according to the board's discussion. Instead of using newly mined uranium, DOE's leftover depleted uranium, also known as "tails" would be used for the Energy Northwest fuel.
DOE is restricted to offering the depleted uranium from tails for enrichment only to federal entities, which limits the deal to the Bonneville Power Administration, which Energy Northwest is working with, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. However, the Tennessee Valley Authority lacks the borrowing capacity to finance the project now, Energy Northwest vice president Atkinson said. That made only Energy Northwest eligible for the deal. It already has used enriched uranium fuel produced from depleted uranium tails in a pilot project in 2005, reducing fuel costs by more than $100 million, according to Energy Northwest.
The agreement now must be approved by the Tennessee Valley Authority, before it can be signed. (The Tri-City Herald May 11, 2012)

 

USEC says it may abandon ship at Paducah enrichment plant

The United States Enrichment Corporation has told federal officials that it is considering pulling out of a uranium enrichment facility in Paducah because of questions about power prices, demand for the product and its future mission. The company sent a letter to the Department of Energy last month saying it could hand over facilities it leases at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant by May. The company also sent a letter to its 1,200 local employees saying that while a final decision hasn't been made, operations at the facility would return to DOE if certain economic conditions aren't met. (Herald Leader Jan. 5, 2012)

 

Crack in accumulator vessel causes small release of uranium hexafluoride at Paducah

"On October 26, 2011, the discovery of two (2) defects (cracks) was identified on the north head of the Building C-310A Side Accumulator Vessel. The accumulator is a tank used to provide a storage volume for liquid Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) during the product withdrawal process."
"The defects in the 48'' UF6 side accumulator allowed a small release of material which produced a process gas leak detection alarm on October 21, 2011. Investigation to determine the cause of the cracks has revealed that the base metal contained stress defects which allowed multiple cracks to form with some of the cracks penetrating through the outer wall causing the vessel to leak. These cracks were a result of fabrication deficiencies and not use of the vessel. This is a deviation from the expectation that the pressure vessel will not leak during use.
This defect has the potential to initiate a catastrophic failure of the vessel releasing a large amount of liquid UF6 which would be a failure to perform its required safety function of containment. The accumulator can hold up to 20,000 pounds of UF6 liquid which, if released, could result in a substantial safety hazard." (USEC notification to NRC, Dec. 20, 2011)

 

Elevated radiation readings found on uranium hexafluoride cylinders at Paducah

Two empty cylinders that formerly contained uranium hexafluoride showed high radiation readings when they were delivered Wednesday (Nov. 2) to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, officials said Thursday. "There is no hazard," said Joey Ledford, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in its Atlanta regional office, which is investigating the incident. "This is not nearly as mysterious and sinister as it sounds." The cylinders were in a shipment Wednesday afternoon from the Converdyn/Honeywell Metropolis Works Plant in Metropolis, Ill., to the Paducah plant complex's depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion facility [?!]. (The Courier-Journal Nov. 3, 2011)

 

NRC approves USEC's plan to return Portsmouth gaseous diffusion enrichment plant to Department of Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the United States Enrichment Corp. (USEC)'s plan to return the remainder of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) to the regulatory control of the Department of Energy (DOE) and to terminate the NRC's Certificate of Compliance for the plant.
> Download NRC release Sep. 28, 2011 external link (PDF)

 

NRC issues Confirmatory Order to USEC over contamination incident at Paducah enrichment plant

On March 17, 2010, an incident occurred at the Paducah facility involving the spread of contamination while operators were involved in the routine activity of swapping cylinders from the enrichment cascade in the 337A feed building. An operator failed to properly use a radiation monitor before exiting the contamination control zone (CCZ), and spread contamination of high activity level to the Operations Monitoring Room, an area adjacent to the CCZ and inside the 337A feed building. On May 18, 2011, NRC preliminarily concluded that the cause of the violation was due, in part, to the deliberate misconduct of an operator at the Paducah facility.
> Federal Register: August 26, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 166) p. 53494-53497 (download full text external link)

 

Chlorine trifluoride release at the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant

"On July 27, 2011, at 4:15 a.m., CDT, the licensee declared an Alert and activated its emergency operations center after release of non-radiological chlorine trifluoride gas occurred while an operator was connecting a cylinder containing the hazardous gas to a holding tank. The operator immediately evacuated the building and personnel in nearby facilities were directed to shelter-in-place. The licensee terminated the Alert declaration at approximately 6:32 a.m., CDT, after emergency responders isolated the leak and air samples confirmed that the leak had been stopped." (NRC PNO-II-11-004, July 27, 2011)

 

House Subcommittee to hold hearing on bill proposing re-enrichment of uranium tails at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

> View here

 

DOE has no plan for re-enriching uranium tails at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell questioned the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday (May 18). During the hearing, Secretary Chu said that the Department of Energy has no plan for re-enriching uranium tails at the Paducah plant. (WPSD Local 6, May 19, 2011)

 

Residents' lawsuit against Portsmouth enrichment plant finally settled after 21 years

A $300 million federal lawsuit by neighbors of the former Piketon uranium-processing plant finally has been settled - 21 years after it was filed. Neighbors of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant sued plant owner Divested Atomic Corp. in 1990, saying the plant had contaminated their neighborhood. Louise M. Roselle, who has represented the neighbors since 1990, said today that the settlement is confidential. It was reached in recent months and the case was dismissed today.
The lawsuit originally asked for medical monitoring for residents of the Pike County town, and charged that people living around the plant suffered emotional distress and lower property values from radioactive and chemical contamination. In 2007, Judge Walter Herbert Rice of U.S. District Court threw out the portion of the lawsuit that involved radioactive material, but allowed claims regarding the release of non-radioactive, hazardous substances. (The Columbus Dispatch March 25, 2011)

 

USEC planning for continued operations of Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant beyond 2012 closure date; re-enrichment of depleted uranium also considered

On Jan. 11, 2011, USEC Inc. announced that it is working to extend the operation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant beyond May 2012 and expects to reach a decision during the first half of 2011.
USEC will base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably. Because the plant is a large consumer of electricity, power prices are a significant factor in the cost of operations and future planning for Paducah. The Company is actively negotiating with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and others for power to operate Paducah beyond mid-2012 when USEC’s current power agreement with TVA expires.
To support extended operations, USEC is also examining the potential of enriching a portion of the Department of Energy's (DOE) depleted uranium stockpile. Depleted uranium is a by-product generated during enrichment. Given the current price of uranium, the federal government could generate substantial revenue by re-enriching portions of the depleted uranium at Paducah to the level of natural uranium. (USEC Jan. 11, 2011)

> See also: Life extension of Paducah enrichment plant by re-enrichment of depleted uranium?

 

Study finds slight increase in lymphatic and bone marrow cancers in Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant workers

A five-year study into the causes of deaths of workers at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) shows significantly lower death rates from all causes and cancer in general when compared to the overall United States population. This is known by occupational health researchers as the "healthy worker effect". However, death from lymphatic and bone marrow cancers such as leukemia or multiple myeloma were slightly above national rates. (Eurekalert July 22, 2010)

Mortality Patterns Among Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant Workers, by Chan, Caroline; Hughes, Therese S.; Muldoon, Susan, et al., in: Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine external link: July 2010, Volume 52, Issue 7, pp 725-732

 

Recycling smelting facility recommended at Portsmouth

> View here

 

Landowners settle lawsuit over contamination from Paducah enrichment plant

A group of landowners has settled a long-running lawsuit for $1.75 million over allegations that water leaks from the Paducah uranium enrichment plant devalued property. The homeowners sued multiple companies in 1997, including Lockheed Martin and Union Carbide, saying radiation contamination by air and water had ruined their land and well water and sickened residents. (AP Apr. 20, 2010)

 

Ohio EPA, U.S. DOE reach cleanup agreement on buildings at former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new component to clean-up efforts at the U.S. Department of Energy's former Gaseous Diffusion Plant. On Tuesday (Apr. 13), the state EPA said it has approved plans from the U.S. Department of Energy that will allow proper cleanup and, in some cases, tearing down of buildings that were used to produce enriched uranium until 2001. Currently, the Department of Energy is conducting cleanup of soil and water at the site under a 1989 agreement, but the new agreement allows it to begin decontamination and decommissioning work in the buildings on the site as well. (Chillicothe Gazette Apr. 14, 2010)

> Download Ohio EPA release Apr. 13, 2010 external link (41k PDF)
> Download Ohio EPA's Agreement with DOE, Apr. 13, 2010 external link (14.4M PDF)

 

Portsmouth enrichment plant cleanup in 2011 to be funded from federal budget rather than sale of DOE uranium inventories

The U.S. Energy Department has canceled plans to put into the market during 2011 extra government-owned surplus uranium supplies, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on Thursday (Feb. 4), but the uranium transfers will continue for this year. The department had planned to transfer next year up to 1,125 tonnes, or about 2.48 million lbs, of its surplus uranium a year to raise money to pay for the cleanup of the Portsmouth uranium enrichment plant in Ohio.
The department instead included the Portsmouth cleanup funds in its proposed 2011 budget that was sent to Congress this week. (Reuters Feb. 4, 2010)

> See also: Sales of U.S. DOE uranium inventories

 

NRC requires improvements at Paducah enrichment plant

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued three Confirmatory Orders to the United States Enrichment Corporation's Paducah, Ky., facility as part of settlement agreements involving three unrelated issues.
One issue involved operators concealing damaged equipment and falsifying records while moving a uranium hexafluoride cylinder. In the second issue, classified information was mishandled when a package was sent to an unapproved mailing address. The third issue stemmed from a U.S. Department of Labor decision that USEC retaliated against a former manager and an NRC concern for the potential influence this would have on the willingness of other employees to raise safety concerns.
> View NRC news release Aug. 18, 2009 external link

 

USEC Portsmouth enrichment plant damaged in storm

A spokesman for the Piketon Uranium Enrichment Plant in Pike County said that there had been some damage at the plant because of the tornado-like storm that swept through the county late Saturday (July 11) afternoon. However, according to public information officer Jack Williams, the damage has not affected the operation of the plant. (NBC July 11, 2009)

 

U.S. DOE releases Draft EA for disposition of contaminated nickel from Paducah enrichment plant

> View here

 

NRC issues Notice of Request for Certificate Renewal and Opportunity for Comment: Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plants

Federal Register: May 8, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 90) p. 26152-26153 (download full text external link)

To be certain of consideration, comments must be received by June 9, 2008.

 

Court clears way for suit over Paducah uranium enrichment plant

A federal appeals court has ruled that a 10-year-old lawsuit alleging that water leaks from a Western Kentucky uranium enrichment plant hurt property values can go forward. The decision, issued on Nov. 2, 2007, by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reverses a decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley, who dismissed the suit, saying there was no proof that enough contamination existed to pose a health hazard.
The case stems from a suit filed by 16 homeowners who live near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The homeowners sued in 1997, claiming about 10 billion gallons [37.9 million cubic meters] of polluted groundwater had damaged 82 pieces of property. They also claimed they lost use of their property and suffered losses of plants, crops, livestock and wildlife. (The Courier-Journal Nov. 4, 2007)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Case Number: 04-5323, Smith, et al. v. Carbide Chem, et al, Western District of Kentucky at Paducah
> Download Court Opinion, Nov. 2, 2007 external link (PDF)

 

Waste from 50 years of uranium processing removed from Portsmouth site

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the completion of waste cleanup of more than 49,000 containers from Building X-7725 at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Waste was transported from the site to Perma-Fix/M&EC's treatment facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where it will undergo further treatment as part of a $9.4 million subcontract with LATA/Parallax. After treatment, the waste will be shipped by LATA/Parallax to the Energy Department's Nevada Test site for disposal. (Central Ohio July 28, 2007)

 

Life extension of Paducah enrichment plant by re-enrichment of depleted uranium?

On Nov. 15, 2007, Congressman Ed Whitfield introduced legislation, that if passed would keep the plant open beyond its 2012 closure date. Congressman Whitfield says the Department of Energy wants to contract with USEC to re-enrich uranium tails contained in old cylinders at the Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, plants. He says if everything falls into place, USEC would stay open an extra 3 to five years. (WPSDTV Nov. 15, 2007)
H.R.4189 external link: To direct the Secretary of Energy to provide for the re-enrichment of certain uranium tailings, and the sale of the product of such re-enrichment, and for other purposes. (introduced 11/14/2007)

Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton says spent uranium in tens of thousands of cylinders at the plant and at a closed sister plant in Piketon, Ohio, is worth about three (b) billion dollars. He says that's based on the soaring price of the low-level radioactive metal. Paxton adds that transferring some of the material to USEC to be re-enriched for use in nuclear power plants could extend the life of the Paducah factory by two to ten years. (Herald Leader May 16, 2007)

> See also: Tails upgrading in USA
> See also: Re-enrichment of depleted uranium tails in Gaseous Diffusion Plants (300k PDF)

 

GAO: funds insufficient for decommissioning of enrichment plants

The cost for decontaminating and decommissioning the Department of Energy's three uranium enrichment plants - located near Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Paducah, Kentucky; and Portsmouth, Ohio - will exceed the available funds by $3.5 billion to $5.7 billion.
United States General Accounting Office: URANIUM ENRICHMENT - Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund Is Insufficient to Cover Cleanup Costs, Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-04-692, July 2, 2004
> Download full report external link (2M PDF)

 

GAO still sceptical on Paducah cleanup

"From fiscal year 1988 through 2003, DOE spent $823 million (in 2002 dollars) at the Paducah site. Of this total, DOE spent about $372 million (45 percent) for a host of operations activities, including general maintenance and security; $298 million (36 percent) for actions to clean up contamination and waste; and $153 million (19 percent) for studies to assess the extent of contamination and determine what cleanup actions were needed. DOE currently projects that the cleanup will take until 2019 and cost almost $1.6 billion to complete - 9 years and about $300 million more than DOE’s earlier projection. The $1.6 billion, however, does not include the cost of other DOE activities required at the site after the plant ceases operations, including final decontamination and decommissioning of the plant and longterm environmental monitoring. DOE estimates these activities will cost almost $5 billion and bring DOE's total costs at the site, including the $823 million already spent, to over $7 billion through 2070 (in 2002 dollars). [...]"

United States General Accounting Office: Nuclear Waste Cleanup: DOE Has Made Some Progress in Cleaning Up the Paducah Site, but Challenges Remain, Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-04-457, April 1, 2004
> Download full report external link (927k PDF)

 

Portsmouth Risk-Based End State Document Draft

The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a document that explores whether aspects of the cleanup at the Piketon uranium enrichment plant could be done with less money while keeping the same amount of risk to the community:

> Download Draft Risk-Based End State Vision and Variance Report for the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Piketon, Ohio external link, Feb. 6, 2004

During a meeting held on March 23, 2004, area residents raised concerns: The Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative, in its written comments to be attached to the report, expressed concern that, among other things, the location for groundwater sampling wells are moved from within plumes of pollution to the site's perimeter in the vision plan. Moving the sampling location could, in theory, pull water that already meets environmental cleanup standards and allow the DOE to avoid cleaning up the contaminated areas of groundwater. (Chillicothe Gazette March 24, 2004)

 

DOE's Inspector General criticizes Cold Standby Program at Portsmouth uranium enrichment plant

Cold Standby Program at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Audit Report, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audit Services, DOE/IG-0634, December 2003
> Download full report external link (2.4MB PDF)

From the results of the audit:

"The audit disclosed that the Department [of Energy] had not clearly defined the termination point of the Cold Standby Program, and the total Cold Standby Program costs had almoust doubled from initial project cost estimates, increasing to about $189 million. Similarly, the Department had not: Without a well-defined endpoint and a formalized process for assessing the continuing need of the Cold Standby Program, the Department risks possbile unnecessary extensions of the program or potential disruptions in the supply of enriched uranium. In fact, if the Department decides to extend the Cold Standby Program until USEC deploys a full scale gas centrifuge, costs could increase from the initial $210 million estimate to over $600 million. [...]"

 

DOE issues Paducah 2002 Annual Site Environmental Report

> Paducah Annual Site Environmental Report 2002, September 2003 external link

 

DOE issues Paducah 5-year review for remedial actions

> Five-Year Review for Remedial Actions at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Paducah, Kentucky, DOE/OR/07-2067&D2, October 2003 external link

 

GAO sees some progress, but still sceptical on DOE's cleanup efforts at Paducah

The GAO study found that total cleanup of the Paducah site will cost an additional $13 billion and would take until 2070 to complete.
United States General Accounting Office, Testimony Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate: NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP - Preliminary Observations on DOE's Cleanup of the Paducah Uranium Enrichment Plant, Statement of Robin M. Nazzaro, Director Natural Resources and Environment, GAO-04-278T, December 6, 2003
> Download full report external link (850k PDF)

 

Paducah plant cleanup deal signed - DOE to pay $1 million fine

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and the U.S. Department of Energy have agreed to an initial plan and timetable for cleaning up non-radioactive wastes at the uranium enrichment plant in Paducah. The agreement, which Patton signed yesterday, requires the Energy Department to remove toxic chemicals and metals from the soil and ground water around the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant between 2010 and 2019.
Also as part of the agreement, the Energy Department will pay a $1 million fine to Kentucky, which will go into the state's Heritage Land Conservation Fund for projects across the state. Another $200,000 from the department will pay for environmental improvements around the enrichment plant. (Lexington Herald Leader Aug. 21, 2003)

 

Seven members quit Citizens Advisory Board at Paducah enrichment plant

Seven people resigned on Aug. 14, 2003, from the 18-member Paducah Citizens Advisory Board external link (CAB) at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, claiming the Department of Energy is "stonewalling" information about conditions at the plant and ignoring the board's recommendations.
The CAB is a stakeholders' board that provides advice and recommendations to the United States Department of Energy (DOE) regarding environmental management programs at the Paducah site. There is widespread soil and groundwater contamination from nuclear waste buried in landfills and chemicals used to clean equipment. In 1988, the Energy Department began to identify the problems and prepare a cleanup plan.
(Courier Journal, Paducah Sun, Aug. 15, 2003)

 

DOE Announces New Contract Opportunities for Cleanup Work at Paducah and Portsmouth Sites

> View DOE HQ release June 3, 2003 external link

 

NRC issues Notice of Request for Certificate Renewal and Opportunity for Comment: Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plants

Federal Register: May 20, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 97) p. 27597-27598 (download full text external link)

To be certain of consideration, comments must be received within 30 days from May 20, 2003.

 

DOE issues Environmental Assessment Addendum for Disposition of Additional Waste at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

Federal Register: April 30, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 83) p. 23117 (download full text external link)
"SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE), announces the availability of the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) Addendum for Disposition of Additional Waste at the Paducah Site (DOE/EA-1339A) for public review and comment. [...]
The Draft EA Addendum evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with transportation of waste to disposal facilities at various locations throughout the United States. The Draft EA Addendum also evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with the no action alternative and enhanced on-site storage alternative. "

On March 8, 2004, the Department of Energy announced the availability of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Environmental Assessment Addendum (EA Addendum) for Waste Disposition Activities at the Paducah Site (DOE/EA-1339A).
> Federal Register: March 16, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 51) p. 12306 (download full text external link)

 

DOE releases 2001 Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund Report

On April 7, 2003, the U.S. Department of Energy released the "Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund, 2001 Report" (third triennial report to Congress on the progress of cleanup work at the three gaseous diffusion plants managed by the Oak Ridge Operations Office)

> Download report (Sep 12, 2002) external link (1.6MB PDF)

 

DOE issues Paducah 2001 Annual Site Environmental Report

U.S. Department of Energy: Paducah Site Annual Environmental Report for Calendar Year 2001, September 2002

> View DOE Release Mar. 21, 2003 external link
> Download Report external link

 

DOE issues Final Environmental Assessment and FONSI for Paducah Waste Disposition

Federal Register: March 11, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 47) p. 11537-11538 (download full text external link)
"SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE), announces the availability of the Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment (EA) for Waste Disposition Activities at the Paducah Site (DOE/EA-1339). [...]"

Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment (EA) for Waste Disposition Activities at the Paducah Site (DOE/EA-1339)
> Access EA external link

> See also: DOE issues Draft Environmental Assessment for Paducah Waste Disposition

 

DOE issues Portsmouth 2001 Annual Site Environmental Report

U.S. Department of Energy: Portsmouth Annual Environmental Report for 2001, Piketon, Ohio, December 2002

> View DOE Release Dec. 11, 2002 external link
> Download Report external link

 

NRC staff proposes a $60,000 fine against the U. S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $60,000 fine against the U. S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) for failing to properly protect classified information at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which the company operates at Paducah, Kentucky.

> View NRC release Nov. 7, 2002 external link
> View NRC Enforcement Action EA-02-085 (Nov. 5, 2002) external link

 

DOE releases Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact on Waste Acceptance at Paducah landfill

DOE/EA-1414, Final Environmental Assessment on the Implementation of the Authorized Limits Process for Waste Acceptance at the C-746-U Landfill, Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Paducah, Kentucky, July 2002 external link

 

NRC orders United States Enrichment Corporation to enhance security in wake of terrorist attacks

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an immediately effective Order to the United States Enrichment Corporation to implement interim compensatory security measures in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

> View NRC release June 18, 2002 external link

 

ATSDR Releases Final Public Health Assessment for the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

"Following an evaluation of available relevant information, ATSDR concluded that, under existing conditions and normal operations, this site poses no apparent public health hazard for the surrounding community from current (1990-present) exposures to groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment, biota, or air. "
> View ATSDR release June 10, 2002 external link

 

DOE issues Draft Environmental Assessment for Paducah Waste Disposition

The draft EA covers PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyls) waste, Low-Level Waste, Mixed Low-Level Waste, and TRU (transuranic) Waste.

The public comment period for the document ends April 25, 2002.

> View DOE news release April 1, 2002 external link

Predecisional Draft, Environmental Assessment for Waste Disposition Activities at the Paducah Site, DOE/EA-1339, Paducah, Kentucky, March 2002.
> Download full report external link (38 MB PDF)

 

Independent report on groundwater movement at Portsmouth

dela Merced, M., Hintermann, B., and Resnikoff, M., Groundwater Movement at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant external link, prepared on behalf of PRESS and Uranium Enrichment Project, Radioactive Waste Management Associates, Report No. #R02-1, February 2002. 77 pp.

 

DOE issues Portsmouth 2000 Annual Site Environmental Report

U.S. Department of Energy: Portsmouth Annual Environmental Report for 2000, Piketon, Ohio, December 2001

> View DOE Release Feb. 11, 2002 external link
> Download Report external link

 

DOE seeks comment on decommissioning of Paducah Feed Plant

The U.S. Department of Energy solicits public input on a draft Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis for the Decontamination and Decommissioning of the C-410 Feed Plant at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The document outlines the alternatives and proposed action for eventual reuse or demolition of the C-410 complex. The facility, which is no longer operational, was used to convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride from the early 1950s until the late 1970s.
The public comment period ends January 21, 2002.
A public hearing will be held on January 10, 2002.
> View DOE news release external link (Dec. 20, 2001)

 

DOE issues Paducah 2000 Annual Site Environmental Report

> View DOE Release December 12, 2001 external link

 

Confusion about unreliable contamination data around Paducah enrichment plant

The federal government has concluded that much of the $14 million in environmental sampling conducted around the Paducah uranium plant is unreliable. The Department of Energy has taken new measurements showing contamination in fewer places -- and at lower levels -- than the original readings taken as long as a decade ago.
The problems with the measurements collected by CH2M Hill, the contractor for the original work, included margins of error that were greater than 50 percent and contamination readings at levels outside the range of what the instruments were calibrated to detect, said John Volpe, manager of the Kentucky Radiation Health and Toxic Agents Branch.
The cleanup of radioactive and chemical hazards around the Paducah plant, which for years processed uranium for nuclear weapons, will cost more than $2 billion to finish, according to some estimates. But the new readings suggest there may be less to clean up.
For example, plutonium levels in surface water and groundwater around the plant's perimeter dropped by about a third compared with the older readings, and six of 15 sites that had plutonium in surface water no longer show contamination.
Volpe is reviewing about 65,000 records of old data for the Energy Department. He said he has not kept a count of how many he has set aside, but a government subcontractor recently told Donham and other members of a citizens liaison group at Paducah that Volpe had rejected about 40 percent of 29,000 measurements checked so far. (Courier Journal Nov. 25, 2001)

> see also: Plutonium contamination around Paducah (Kentucky) enrichment plant

 

NIOSH health study of Portsmouth enrichment plant workers

No statistically significant excesses in mortality were identified in a study performed by NIOSH on 8877 Portsmouth uranium enrichment plant workers.

FINAL REPORT. MORTALITY PATTERNS AMONG URANIUM ENRICHMENT WORKERS at the PORTSMOUTH GASEOUS DIFFUSION PLANT PIKETON, OHIO.
PREPARED BY THE STAFF OF THE HEALTH-RELATED ENERGY RESEARCH BRANCH DIVISION OF SURVEILLANCE, HAZARD EVALUATIONS, AND FIELD STUDIES,
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, July, 2001, 179 pp.

> Download Summary external link (61k PDF) · Full text external link (1.1M PDF)

 

Development of Laser-based enrichment technology

SILEX uranium enrichment technology classified

 

Portsmouth enrichment plant closed

On May 18, 2001 USEC Inc. officially notified the Department of Energy (DOE) that its Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Ohio ceased production of enriched uranium on Friday, May 11, 2001.

 

U.S. ATSDR releases Paducah public health assessment for comment

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Public Health Assessment for the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant has been made available on ATSDR's Web site for public comment until May 31, 2001. This public health assessment addresses potential off-site exposures to radioactive and non-radioactive substances released from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
"According to the information reviewed by ATSDR, under normal operating conditions, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant currently poses no apparent public health hazard for the surrounding community from exposure to groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment, biota, or air."
> View Public Health Assessment external link

 

NRC approves enrichment assay upgrade at Paducah

The Paducah enrichment plant now can enrich to a concentration of 5.5 percent uranium-235, rather than 2.75 percent so far. (NRC News Release March 19, 2001 external link)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. EST March 28, 2001, in Paducah, Kentucky, to discuss this license amendment. (NRC News Release March 21, 2001 external link)

 

NRC issues Preliminary Compliance Evaluation Report on Paducah enrichment assay upgrade project

On February 16, 2001, the NRC staff issued a Preliminary Compliance Evaluation Report on the U.S. Enrichment Corp. request to increase the enrichment assay at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant. Approval of the amendment request is contingent on resolution of a technical issue and the findings of an operation readiness review beginning Feb. 20, 2001.
> Download Text of Transmittal Letter external link
> Download Preliminary Compliance Evaluation Report external link

 

USEC uranium stock contaminated with technetium

USEC Inc. finished the cleanup of its technetium-contaminated uranium inventories this month, the Company announced on Oct. 23, 2006. The 7,434 metric tons (MT) of uranium cleaned were part of an inventory of natural uranium transferred to the Company by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prior to USEC's privatization.
In 2000, USEC discovered that 9,550 MT of that inventory may have contained elevated levels of technetium, making it out-of-specification according to standards for uranium hexafluoride for enrichment as set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Because the uranium may not have met these specifications, USEC could not use the material as feed for enrichment.
USEC has been cleaning the 7,434 MT of contaminated inventory under a contract with DOE at the Company's Piketon, Ohio, facility using a patented process the Company developed. The cost of cleaning USEC's uranium was less than 15 percent of the price of buying replacement uranium at today's prices. (USEC Oct. 23, 2006)

"Prior to the 1998 privatization of the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC), the Department of Energy (DOE) transferred about 45,000 metric tons of natural uranium to USEC to, among other things, be enriched to fulfill USEC’s nuclear fuel contracts. About 9,550 metric tons were subsequently discovered to be contaminated with technetium, a radioactive metal, at levels exceeding the specification for nuclear fuel. Although DOE has not admitted liability, DOE and USEC have entered into agreements under which USEC is decontaminating the uranium. DOE has compensated USEC for its decontamination costs in several ways, including using proceeds from sales of government-owned clean uranium."
"As of February 28, 2006, USEC reported that about 10 percent of the contaminated uranium that DOE transferred to the corporation prior to privatization remains to be decontaminated, or about 960 metric tons of the 9,550 contaminated metric tons transferred. DOE estimates USEC will finish decontaminating this uranium by the end of December 2006. Through the end of February 2006, USEC has invoiced DOE for a total of about $152 million in decontamination costs."
U.S. ENRICHMENT CORPORATION PRIVATIZATION: USEC's Delays in Providing Data Hinder DOE's Oversight of the Uranium Decontamination Agreement, United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-06-723, June 2006 external link (1.8M PDF)

In December 2000, USEC notified the U.S. DOE that testing on "limited samples" of the uranium transfered to USEC in 1998 found some contamination with radioactive technetium. How much of the uranium may be tainted is still to be determined, but the amount could be more than 24 million pounds, a third of the 74 million pounds of raw uranium the government turned over in 1998. USEC wants the government to replace any contaminated material. (AP Feb. 7, 2001)

 

DOE releases Exposure Assessment Report for Paducah enrichment plant workers

Up to 400 workers exposed up to 20-fold in excess of standard

"PURPOSE AND APPROACH
The Exposure Assessment Team (herein referred to as the "Team") was charged with conducting a preliminary study at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) to define the radiological issues, the categories of workers that may have had increased potential for radiation exposure, the locations and processes where increased exposures may have occurred, and, where possible, provide some reasonable estimates of radiation exposures to the worker groups. While all types of possible radiation exposures were considered, particular attention was given to potential exposures to the transuranic elements (TRU), neptunium and plutonium. Dosimetric information on worker exposures to the transuranics was particularly meager."
From the Conclusions:
[...] "The Team estimates that 2,500 to 4,000 workers worked in areas with increased potential for internal and external radiation exposures. The Team estimates that approximately 200 workers received in excess of 1 rem in a calendar year, and also estimates that on the order of 10% of the 2,500 to 4,000 workers had the potential for internal exposures that may have approached or exceeded regulatory limits." [...] (emphasis added)
A public meeting on the study will be held on February 1, 2001, in Paducah.

> View DOE press release, January 10, 2001 external link
> Download full report: Exposure Assessment Project at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (Dec. 2000) external link (1.3MB PDF)

 

DOE releases two reports on Cold War era work at Paducah

"The Department of Energy (DOE) today issued two reports covering Cold War era work at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The first covers "Work For Others" activities, including weapons support and disposition-related activities conducted for other federal agencies at the facility from the 1950s until 1986. The second report provides information on the recovery and disposition of various metals at the Paducah site from 1952 to 1986." (DOE press release Dec. 21, 2000 external link)

> Download Report on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant "Work for Others" Program, Including Weapons Support and Disposition, December 2000. external link
> Download Report on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant Metals Recovery Program, December 2000. external link

 

NRC invites comments on proposed increase of Paducah enrichment assay limit

Federal Register: Nov 22, 2000 (Vol. 65, No. 226) p. 70368-70369 (download full notice external link):
"The U.S. Enrichment Corporation is requesting that the assay limit for the Paducah facility be increased from the current 2.75 wt% 235U up to 5.5 wt% 235U. The proposed amendment, if approved, would allow the Paducah facility to withdraw from the cascade and ship 5.0 wt% enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6)."
Written comments must be received by December 22, 2000.

 

'Blue glow' reported at Paducah burial pit

A "blue glow" reported by workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant could indicate nuclear reactions occurred underground in a top-secret burial pit for atomic-weapons parts, according to an internal memo obtained by The Courier-Journal.
The memo, written Thursday by a health physicist employed by the plant operator, says "a 'blue glow' that looked like 'blue fire' above the ground" was first observed in the early 1980s over the southwest corner of the C-746-F classified burial yard and was reportedly seen a number of times after that.
Ray Carroll, a health physicist for the U.S. Enrichment Corp., wrote that the "blue glow" could be a type of radiation resulting from nuclear fission processes, and added, "If the cause is a fission source, personnel entering the area could potentially receive a lethal dose of radiation." (The Courier-Journal Oct. 25, 2000)

After testing for radiation on Oct. 27 at the burial pit at the Paducah uranium plant, the U.S. Department of Energy said it had ruled out that a "blue glow" seen there had been caused by a nuclear reaction. (The Courier-Journal Oct. 28, 2000)

 

Plutonium contamination around Paducah (Kentucky) enrichment plant

"A uranium processing plant in Paducah, Ky., spread plutonium farther around the facility than was previously known and even contaminated ground water in the area, according to newly released documents.

Maps drawn last summer but not released to federal investigators reveal that plant officials had taken hundreds of measurements over 10 years showing plutonium in soil and water more than a mile from the plant's fence. Most disturbing was the discovery of elevated levels of the highly dangerous metal in dozens of ground-water tests.

The results of these tests suggest that government contractors knew far more about the extent of the contamination than was previously acknowledged, and the spread of plutonium was much more extensive than Energy Department officials reported after an investigation last fall." (Washington Post, Oct 1, 2000)

> view Paducah plutonium maps external link

 

USEC to close Portsmouth enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio

USEC Inc. announced on June 21, 2000 that it will cease uranium enrichment operations at the Portsmouth plant in Piketon, Ohio, beginning in June 2001. After that date, the Paducah, Kentucky, plant will remain USEC's only operating enrichment plant. At present, both plants are producing at 25% of their capacities only. Before the Portsmouth plant can be shutdown, the Paducah plant has to be upgraded, since it does not produce but a pre-product of less than commercial reactor grade so far.

 

GAO releases report on Paducah cleanup

"Conclusions. DOE faces significant challenges in cleaning up the Paducah site. First, given the many uncertainties and optimistic assumptions inherent in the cleanup plan, there is reason to doubt that the Department will complete its planned cleanup actions by 2010 within the estimated $1.3 billion cost. Furthermore, if the cleanup plan is carried out as currently envisioned, billions of dollars and many years will be required to address areas not included in the current cleanup plan. For example, additional costs and time will be required to address about 1 million cubic feet of waste and contaminated scrap that is contained in DOE's material storage areas, 16 unused buildings, and other structures that will remain on site." [...]
"In addition, DOE officials estimated that it might cost between $1.8 billion and $2.4 billion to operate the conversion facility at Paducah for nearly 25 years and to store and dispose of the unused converted material. Finally, according to DOE's January 1998 estimate, another $1 billion would be needed for final decontamination and decommissioning activities when the plant ceases operations and is returned to DOE."
Nuclear Waste Cleanup: DOE's Paducah Plan Faces Uncertainties and Excludes Costly Cleanup Activities, United States General Accounting Office external link, GAO/RCED-00-96, Apr. 28, 2000
> Download full report external link (3.1 MB PDF)

> See also: GAO Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Energy Research, Development, Production and Regulation, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate: NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP, DOE’s Cleanup Plan for the Paducah, Kentucky Site Faces Uncertainties and Excludes Costly Activities, GAO/T-RCED-00-225, June 27, 2000
> Download full testimony external link (160k PDF)

 

Former processing of recycled uranium in U.S. enrichment plants

Appeals court upholds decision to dismiss lawsuit filed by Paducah uranium enrichment plant workers

On March 8, 2005, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley to dismiss a lawsuit seeking more than $10 billion for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant workers who say they suffered emotional distress and potential medical expenses because of exposure to radioactive materials and chemical contamination. (Herald Leader Mar. 8, 2005)

> Download: Court Opinion 05a0112p.06 (Rainer v. Union Carbide Corp), March 8, 2005 external link (PDF)

Judge rejects Paducah workers' recycled uranium exposure claims

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 billion for Paducah uranium plant workers who were unknowingly exposed to plutonium and neptunium.
In a 16-page ruling July 16, 2003, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley concluded the plant operators were covered under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act that limits the liability of private operators of nuclear facilities "in the event of a nuclear incident."
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Paducah in 1999, sought damages for as many as 10,000 people who have worked at the plant since it opened 50 years ago. The workers sued two former plant operators, Lockheed Martin and Union Carbide Corp., as well as General Electric Co., which shipped uranium to the plant from 1954 to 1998.
Evidence of damage to DNA and chromosomes isn't sufficient to show physical injury, McKinley said. Rather, the workers had to show "objective symptoms of illness or disease or, at the very least, some physical harm." Some of the plaintiffs said that they're determined to challenge the ruling before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. (Courier-Journal July 18, 2003)

Kentucky Western District Court external link

> View Public Citizen's Price-Anderson Act page external link · NIRS' Price-Anderson Act factsheet external link

U.S. DOE Releases Historical Studies of Recycled Uranium

DOE release March 29, 2001 external link

> Access all reports external link · Overview report (March 28, 2001) external link (300k PDF)
> Access enrichment plant site reports: Paducah external link · Portsmouth external link · Oak Ridge external link

U.S. DOE releases independent investigation report on Portsmouth plant

On May 25, 2000, the Department of Energy issued the report on its five month investigation of "past and current practices that potentially effected the environment and the safety and health of workers and the public" at the department's Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Southern Ohio.

"The report concludes that current operations in Energy Department-controlled areas of the plant do not present an immediate risk to workers or the public, but that there are also weaknesses in current operations that need to be addressed."

"The review of historical operations at the site indicates that certain work activities and locations posed higher exposure risks to radiological and chemical hazards than others. Enrichment process facilities with the potential for such exposures include the cascade and other process buildings; a fuel manufacturing plant; an oxide conversion plant; decontamination, cleaning and uranium recovery facilities and incinerators. The most hazardous operations at the plant involved the operation of the oxide conversion plant, which had continuous airborne and surface radioactive contamination over its use from 1957 to 1978. Personnel working in this facility were exposed to transuranics and other hazards." (from DOE News Release May 25, 2000 external link)

Office of Oversight, Environment, Safety and Health: Independent Investigation of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, U.S. DOE, May 2000
> Download report external link

State Task Force Releases Paducah Report

On April 27, 2000, a fact finding team appointed by Kentucky Governor Paul Patton released its report about the Paducah uranium enrichment plant.
"After several weeks of work, the fact-finding team reported to Governor Patton that based on available information they believed no immediate threat to public health that had not been previously disclosed and posted existed in the immediate vicinity of the PGDP. The team did however have serious concerns about: 1) the historical lack of environmental data and oversight in and around the PGDP, and 2) the adequacy of the federal government's plan for completing the necessary environmental cleanup in and around the PGDP."
> Download Report of the Commonwealth of Kentucky's Task Force Examining State Regulatory Issues at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, April 2000 external link (480k PDF)

U.S. DOE releases second part of independent investigation report on Paducah plant

On Feb. 10, 2000, the Office of Oversight in the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Environment, Safety and Health released a report of its findings of the Phase Two Independent Investigation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky. The second phase of the investigation -- ordered in August by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson in response to allegations of improper environment, safety and health practices -- covered activities at the plant from 1952 to 1990.
A public meeting to review the report's results will be held in Paducah on February 23, 2000.
> View DOE Press Release Feb. 10, 2000 external link
> Download Phase II Independent Investigation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Feb. 2000 external link

Recycled Uranium Legacy Web Site

"This site has been designed to provide information about the ongoing investigation of health concerns involving the processing of recycled uranium at various Energy Department sites.":
U.S. DOE ES&H Recycled Uranium Legacy Web Site external link

U.S. NRC releases special inspection reports on Paducah and Portsmouth plants

On October 28, 1999, the NRC completed a special team inspection of the current radiation protection programs at the Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plants. The inspection was conducted as a result of concerns over past worker exposures to transuranic and fission product radionuclides at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
> Access NRC Inspection Reports 70-7001/99013 & 70-7002/99013 (dated Nov. 23, 1999): View (173k HTML) external link · Download (230k PDF) external link

U.S. DOE releases first part of independent investigation report on Paducah plant

On October 20, 1999, the Office of Oversight in the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Environment, Safety and Health released a report of its findings of the Phase One Independent Investigation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky. The first phase of the investigation -- ordered in August by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson in response to allegations of improper environment, safety and health practices -- covered activities at the plant since 1990.
> View DOE press release Oct. 20, 1999 external link
> Download full text external link (1.9M PDF format)

U.S. DOE releases data on former processing of recycled uranium at enrichment plants

The Department of Energy (DOE) has completed an initial stage of a technical review of past operations involving recycled uranium at gaseous diffusion plants located in Paducah, Kentucky; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Piketon, Ohio. Up to 1977, about 107,000 tonnes of recycled uranium, containing plutonium, neptunium, and technetium-99, were processed in these plants.
Plant workers had not been informed about the additional hazards from this material, compared to natural uranium.
> See DOE Press Release Sep 29, 1999 external link
> For details, see:
Historical Impact of Reactor Tails on the Paducah Cascade, by R. F. Smith, U.S. DOE, March 1984 external link (3MB PDF - unclassified)

 

U.S. NRC issues Inspection Report on Dec. 1998 fire at Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant

"During routine operations on the morning of December 9, 1998, operations staff observed a series of abnormal conditions associated with the Side Purge Cascade, Cell 25-7-2. The operations staff's immediate response to the abnormal conditions was not successful in restoring normal operations and an exothermic reaction was either started or propagated within the cascade. The exothermic reaction continued until sufficient heat was generated to cause a failure of the Cell 25-7-2 cooling system, initiating a second exothermic reaction. Subsequent heat and pressure increases within the Side Purge Cascade resulted in: 1) the creation of holes within the process gas cascade boundary of Cell 25-7-2; 2) an automatic shutdown of the Side Purge Cascade; 3) the activation of a portion of the Building X-326 automatic fire suppression sprinkler system; 4) an emergency response and approximately two hours of firefighting activities by the onsite fire department; and 5) challenges to the continued operation of the remainder of the process gas cascade."
> View full Report No: 070-7002/98019(DNMS) external link (180k)

 

U.S. NRC issues Report to Congress for Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plants

SECY-98-275 - Report to Congress on the Gaseous Diffusion Plants Located near Paducah, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio, November 24, 1998 (Covering the Period from October 1, 1997, to September 30, 1998)
> View full text: HTML (123k) · WordPerfect external link

 

U.S. NRC Staff proposes $55,000 fine against U.S. Enrichment Corporation for violation at Portsmouth plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $55,000 fine against the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) for an inadequate maintenance and testing program for safety-related valves at its Portsmouth, Ohio, gaseous diffusion plant.
> View NRC news release RIII-98-44 external link (July 16, 1998)

 

U.S. NRC issues Confirmatory Order for seismic upgrading of USEC enrichment plant at Paducah, Kentucky

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an order to the U.S. Enrichment Corporation external link (USEC) confirming the company's commitment to install seismic modifications in two buildings at its Paducah, Kentucky, Gaseous Diffusion Plant by September 30.
> View NRC News Release 98-57 external link (April 23, 1998)
> View full text of Confirmatory Order EA 98-156 external link (April 22, 1998)

 

U.S. NRC Staff Proposes $55,000 Fine Against U.S. Enrichment Corporation

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $55,000 fine against the U.S. Enrichment Corporation external link (USEC) for violations of nuclear safety requirements at its Portsmouth, Ohio, Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The violations involve major deficiencies in the nuclear criticality safety and self-assessment programs at the Portsmouth facility.

> View NRC News Announcement III-98-19 external link (March 20, 1998)

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