Senate Energy Committee Holds Hearing On Brown Legislation To Clean Up Piketon Uranium Enrichment Plant

Date: Nov. 15, 2007
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Energy

Senate Energy Committee Holds Hearing On Brown Legislation To Clean Up Piketon Uranium Enrichment Plant

The Senate Energy Committee today held a hearing on U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) legislation to continue the clean up of Piketon's uranium enrichment plant. The authority for the Uranium Enrichment Decommissioning and Decontamination (D & D) Fund of the Department of Energy (DOE), which currently funds clean up efforts, is set to expire this year.

Brown's legislation would continue funding for the cleanup program for ten more years.

Brown released the following testimony, which was submitted for the record:

"Thank you Chairman Bingaman and members of the Committee. I appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of the people of Pike County, Ohio and McCracken County, Kentucky, for whom a stable and fully-funded Decontamination and Decommissioning (D & D) Fund is critically important. We need to ensure we clean up our nuclear legacy sites and we need to do this as part of our future policy regarding nuclear energy. If we don't clean up our nuclear waste, we can't in good faith consider a future for nuclear energy in this country.

"In 1992, Congress created the D & D fund. The program was to clean up the old gaseous diffusion enrichment plants in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. The fund was designed as a partnership between the nuclear industry and the federal government. The commercial nuclear power industry has long benefited from its partnership with the federal government. The government transferred domestic nuclear technology it had invented to private companies for domestic electricity production. As part of this partnership, the nuclear industry has and continues to purchase enriched uranium from the old enrichment plants.

"After nearly 50 years of operation, these enrichment plants are some of the most contaminated areas in our country. Since Paducah and Piketon are both within the Ohio River Basin's watershed, without the proper cleanup, contamination from these facilities could endanger the entire population from Cincinnati to New Orleans. The D & D fund has worked. But, as we all know, much more needs to be done. Decades of cleanup remain.

"We can debate the numbers and the amount of money it will cost to clean up the sites, but we all know that the current account of the fund is woefully short. After 15 years, the D & D fund was supposed to expire. In those 15 years, we've learned that the cleanup is going to cost much more than originally thought.

"S. 2203, the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund Reauthorization Act of 2007, is a straight reauthorization. It simply extends the D & D fund for 10 more years. We know after these 10 years there still might not be enough money to complete the cleanup, but this is a fair amount of time to start the work and after a decade, we can better determine how to go forward.

"S. 2203 also calls for a study by DOE to look into how best to use the uranium tails at Piketon and Paducah for the benefit of the sites. This provision will permit all parties to come together and determine how best to use a federal government asset for the betterment of its people.

"For too long, policies have pitted the people of the Appalachian cities of Paducah and Piketon against one another. This has to end. This bill works with, rather than dictates to, the people of the enrichment communities. S. 2203 aims to bring everyone to the table to figure out how to go forward.

"These communities helped the United States win the Cold War and have supplied the commercial nuclear power industry for decades. We can't turn our backs on them. The need for the D & D fund is just as great today as when it was created. S. 2203 is a fair and forward looking bill that will help clean up our nuclear past. If we do not plan for this clean up in a responsible manner, that breach of trust will surely compromise support for nuclear power in the future. Thank you Mr. Chairman."