Considering All the Health Effects of Retrofitting or Retiring a Paducah Plant

Oct 7, 2014
Erica Peterson

A new analysis from an environmental group takes a deep look at the potential health consequences of either retrofitting or retiring a Western Kentucky power plant.

The Shawnee Fossil Plant is near Paducah, on the Ohio River. It’s a coal-fired power plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Right now, TVA is preparing to retrofit the plant with pollution controls so it can keep burning coal and comply with federal air pollution regulations. But in a draft document that will be finalized later this year, the company said it was evaluating the future of the Shawnee plant.

And those two possible scenarios made Shawnee an attractive candidate for a Health Impact Assessment, said Deborah Payne of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.

“The intent of this project is to look at how health can be impacted either if they retrofit the plant and continue operation or if they retire the plant and close down, and the health impacts associated with that,” she said.

Federal, state and local officials are praising the U.S. Department of Energy’s awarding a three-year $420 million clean-up contract to Fluor Federal Services, for decommissioning and decontamination of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

General Electric

The U.S. Department of Energy has started negotiations with General Electric's nuclear division on a proposal to replace Paducah's aging uranium enrichment plant with a new one.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy wants to build a laser enrichment facility that would make use of the depleted uranium kept at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The Energy Department announced Wednesday that it has selected the company to begin exclusive negotiations for the sale of the uranium inventory.

U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with Rep. Ed Whitfield, said in a news release that the new plant would create hundreds of permanent jobs at the site.

The Paducah plant had been a major employer for two generations but is being mothballed. Layoffs began earlier this year.

A memorial to nuclear industry workers during the Cold War is beginning to take shape in Paducah. In the six months since a house was moved to a corner lot, the building has been renovated as the anchor point for the ambitious plan.