KY Lawmakers Urge Sale of Re-Enriched U308

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"This piece of legislation appears to be a win-win-win."

DNJ, James Carroll

Depleted uranium stored at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and a sister facility in Ohio is worth about $4.2 billion in today's market, a government auditor told a House panel on Monday.

But while the amount is tempting for Kentucky lawmakers who want the government to sell the so-called uranium "tails," the market is volatile, said Gene Aloise, director of the General Accountability Office's natural resources and environment division.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-1st District, have introduced legislation to create a two-year pilot project for the Paducah plant to re-enrich and sell some of its 40,000 cylinders of depleted uranium. The proceeds would help pay for cleanup at the facility.

Whitfield, chairman of the energy and power subcommittee, has scheduled a vote on the bill for Wednesday.

But opposition has surfaced from some Democrats, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who said he was concerned the government could be forced to give a sole-source contract to a company using old technology under terms that may not be a good deal for taxpayers.

That company, Bethesda, Md.-based USEC Inc., operates the Paducah plant for the government but declined to appear at Monday's hearing.

"We respectfully declined because we have an unsolicited proposal before the Department of Energy to enrich some of the tails," said USEC spokesman Paul Jacobson.

Whitfield contends that re-enriching the depleted uranium would keep the sprawling Paducah facility open past 2012, save 1,200 jobs at the plant and generate revenue to continue removing decades of environmental contamination at the site.

"This is an important piece of legislation and makes a lot of sense," Whitfield said. "It appears to be a win-win-win."

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