PDT Staff Writer
With an update on a previously reported story, at Tuesday’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing regarding the nomination of Ernest J. Moniz to be the Secretary of Energy, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) highlighted the importance of the American Centrifuge Project.
“With regard to the American Centrifuge Project, as you know, I’ve been involved with this for the last decade, and it’s something that’s critical for our energy security, but it’s also critical for our national security,” Portman said.
Portman said one of the reasons for the critical need for the ACP is the nation’s need for tritium for it’s nuclear arsenal.
“I know you’re an expert on this, and it encourages me that you’re stepping out to take on this role, because I think we need right now to focus on that issue, and, of course, in regard to nuclear proliferation, we want to be able to tell other countries that we have the ability to supply them this enriched uranium, they don’t need, frankly, to go down that track themselves. Without a domestic source it is impossible for us to do that,” Portman said. “And finally the nuclear navy - our nuclear navy reactor program depends on this enriched uranium.”
Portman asked Moniz if he agreed the U.S. needs a domestic source of enriched uranium to support it’s nuclear weapons program.
“Yes sir, it’s a requirement that we have an American origin technology for enrichment,” Moniz said.
Portman also discussed with Dr. Moniz the cleanup of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon. Moniz agreed to maintain the uranium barter program which has helped to pay for cleanup activities at the gaseous diffusion facility.
“The cost of that, as you know, is significant, and the bartering of uranium from the DOE stockpile is critical to keep that project alive,” Portman told Moniz. “And we should all be for that because it enables us to ensure that there’s adequate funding for demolition and waste disposal which will save the taxpayers money over time.”
“I believe there’s an agreement in place that already has the forward limits at least on bartering,” Moniz responded. “And I think that’s part of the overall uranium strategy and the cleanup strategy and out ability to pay for it.”
The cleanup project is a 10 to 15 year project which currently employs more than 2,000 people. Last year, Portman worked with Secretary Chu to increase the uranium barter program to help cover a gap in appropriated funding. The uranium barter program allows the Department of Energy to barter or sell natural uranium into the open market and use the proceeds to pay for cleanup work at Piketon. The increased uranium barter program will raise more than $200 million by the end of this fiscal year. This funding will help to preserve employment at the site and ensure that the cleanup stays on schedule.
USEC officials say Moniz’ appointment has the potential to be beneficial to the Piketon project.
“Certainly, we’re encouraged by Secretary-designate Moniz’s recognition of the American Centrifuge’s importance to our energy and national security needs,” USEC officials responded to the hearings. “The current research, development and demonstration program continues to move forward on schedule and on budget. We look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Energy, the new secretary once he is confirmed and with our bipartisan supporters in Congress to complete the current project, which will confirm technical readiness for commercialization.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.