Paducah Local Hosts Fall Atomic Council Meeting

Members of USW’s Atomic Energy Workers Council (AEWC) held their fall meeting at Local 550’s union hall in Paducah, Ky., which included a tour of the cleanup work being done at the former gaseous diffusion plant.

Besides discussion over the Department of Energy (DOE), local union issues, robotics and the Worker Health Protection Program (WHPP), members heard a presentation by attorney, Julie Ford, regarding arbitration awards and fitness for duty.

At the suggestion of Local Union (LU) 12-369 member Bill Collins from the Hanford plant, the council decided to form an AEWC caucus for the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) meetings in Washington, DC.

Besides being a vehicle to get the council’s voice heard in DC, it enables the group to create one-on-one relationships with DOE staffers, DOE appointees by the administration, Congress and congressional staffers involved in the nuclear sector.

AEWC decided to hold the caucus meeting/reception this spring in conjunction with the ECA meeting in DC, and proposed to fund the caucus with a 50-cent per capita increase.


AEWC President Jim Key and Rod Rimando, DOE environmental management director of the Office of Technology, discussed the opportunities to use robotics for assisting—not replacing—workers in areas of high radioactive contamination.

“In some sectors, robotics is a job-killer, but that is not true in the nuclear sector,” Rimando said. “A robotic device will always require a human because of the nature of change in our work. Robotics in the nuclear sector is for doing our work safer and better.”

Workers would control the robots’ movements with I-pads, enabling them to be at an increased distance from a radiation source and not receive exposure.

The aging nuclear work force is prompting DOE to have workers wear exoskeletal suits to protect them from repetitive motion disorders, fatigue, muscle atrophy and the effects of aging.   

USW Assistant Legislative Director Roxanne Brown said it is critical for the union to control the automation happening within the nuclear sector before it develops further without USW input.

“We are working on the next phase of nuclear operations; it is key we control this automation,” Brown said. “Maybe we can attract young people to work in the nuclear sector because they think it is cool.”

PICTURED: (L-R) Herman Potter, AEWC vice president; Jim Key, AEWC president, and USW International Vice President Carol Landry. Photo BY Mike Hancock, USW Local Union 9-562 retiree.

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