PDT Staff Writer
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) Thursday sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz inviting him to tour the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) facility in Piketon, the facility Portman refers to as, “the cornerstone to fulfilling our national security requirements for a domestic source of enriched uranium.”
In the letter, Portman thanks Moniz for expressing his commitment to coming up with a long-term solution to fund the project.
“I appreciated hearing your thoughts on the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) technology and your understanding of the necessity of having a domestic source of enriched uranium to meet our long-term national security needs,” Portman said in his correspondence.
In addition, Portman also expressed his disappointment that the Obama Administration has yet to reveal its long-term plans for ACP.
“As shared with you during our most recent meeting, I continue to be disappointed that after four years there has been no progress on a conditional loan guarantee for the ACP project, using the fund Congress has already approved,” Portman said.
USEC officials have long awaited a positive response to their application for a conditional $2 billion loan guarantee for the American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. USEC applied for the loan guarantee in 2008 after then-candidate Barack Obama promised to support it, but since then has remained quiet about his support for the loan guarantee. Since then, USEC has partnered with the DOE in the RD&D project. The $350 million cooperative cost-shared RD&D program with DOE consists of the DOE providing 80 percent, and USEC, 20 percent, to confirm the technical readiness of the American Centrifuge technology, the next-generation U.S. uranium enrichment technology.
The program is within budget and on schedule to be completed in December 2013. The RD&D program supports building, installing, operating, and testing commercial plant support systems and a 120-machine cascade that would be incorporated in the full commercial plant of 96 identical cascades in Piketon.
Portman said he hopes to tour the site with Moniz and work through the important issues. He is also reaffirming the critical nature of the project.
“I strongly believe that ACP is too important to our nation’s national and energy security and too important to the economy of southern Ohio to allow this important project to fail,” Portman said.
“We’re always looking forward to welcoming any officials with the government who have oversight or have interest in the project to visit the plant,” Paul Jacobson, Vice President of Communications for USEC, Inc., told the Daily Times. “We think we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress with the Research, Development and Demonstration program, which, of course, the Department of Energy has significantly funded. So I think it would be worthwhile and important for anyone from the Department of Energy, and mostly certainly, and including the new Secretary to visit and see the work that is being done.”
During Moniz’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee nomination hearing in April, Moniz agreed with Portman that the United States must have the technology for a fully domestic source of enriched uranium to support the nation’s nuclear weapons program and the Navy nuclear reactors program, saying, “It’s a requirement that we have American origin technology for enrichment.”
Portman also discussed with Moniz the cleanup of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant at Piketon. Moniz agreed to maintain the uranium barter program which has helped to pay for cleanup activities at the gaseous diffusion facility.
“We’ve had the long record of bipartisan support in Ohio and from the community,” Jacobson said. “And, of course, the Department of Energy has been very supportive as we have gone through the RD&D process, so, to the extent that the new Secretary would like to come and see the work that’s been done, we would obviously welcome him.”
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.