Kentucky lawmakers are set to pass a bill with the hope it will help a uranium enrichment plant in Paducah stay in operation. House Bill 559 would allow the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah to use spent uranium fuel rods and either re-enrich or sell those rods.
The state bill is only steps away from becoming law, but the real decision is up to the federal government. Right now, the Department of Energy doesn’t allow re-enrichment of spent fuel rods. Kentucky’s federal delegation is pressuring the DOE to change its mind, but so far their lobbying hasn’t worked and the plant could shut down in May. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says House Bill 559 is a companion to those federal efforts.
“We hope that this will couple up with what is going on with the federal delegation as well at the federal level and hopefully show our support to try to keep those jobs alive,” Adkins says.
Kentucky’s two senators and Representative Ed Whitfield have federal legislation allowing for the same flexibility for the Paducah plant, but it has not passed Congress. Paducah State Senator Bob Leeper thanked supporters for more than five years of work on the legislation.
“Years ago, (supporters) approached me with the idea of trying to do something to create opportunities for the employees at USEC, who eventually are going to lose their job, quite frankly,” Leeper says.
House Bill 559 cleared Leeper’s budget committee Thursday. It now goes to the Senate for passage before heading to the governor’s desk.