Local 1-689 Pushes Reindustrialization of Former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant

Local 1-689 leaders met separately with a top Department of Energy (DOE) official and an Ohio congressman to gauge their support for possible initiatives that could bring jobs to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant after the cleanup work is completed.

“Right now, the mission at Portsmouth is to tear it all down. You have to change missions and establish new projects in order to keep people working,” said Herman Potter, Local 1-689 president. “The majority of the workforce is doing decontamination and decommissioning work. Once the buildings are down, there’s no jobs.”

He said he would like to see DOE connect its EM mission at Portsmouth with a reindustrialization program similar to what is happening at the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant site, which is now called the East Tennessee Technology Park. As cleanup advances there, DOE transfers more facilities and land for reuse and development, which saves taxpayer dollars and accelerates economic development in the region.

Potter  and Local 1-689 vice president Tom Lamerson, raised the possibility of job creation initiatives with DOE Environmental Management (EM) Acting Assistant Secretary William “Ike” White when he met with union leadership from Local 1-689 and the building trades.

White visited the former uranium enrichment plant, located near Piketon, Ohio, the end of June to see progress of the demolition and disposal work that is part of the decontamination and decommissioning of the site.

They also flagged their concerns with Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan spoke with Potter and Lamerson on July 9. Ryan is running for the Senate seat vacated by Rob Portman, who also has a relationship with the local.

Pictured: Tom Lamerson, Herman Potter and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)

Potter and Lamerson suggested to White and Ryan that Congress appropriate more funding for Centrus Energy Corp.’s American Centrifuge Project at its high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) enrichment facility at the site. Potter estimated that at full operation, the centrifuge plant could generate between 400 and 500 new USW jobs, since the union represents the existing workforce.

Another initiative that would bring jobs to the site is the recovery of 140 metric tons of nickel that could be cleaned and resold. In 2000, DOE Secretary Bill Richardson placed a moratorium on the recycling and reuse of metals from DOE sites. Since then, the technology to clean nickel has advanced, Potter said, but the moratorium would have to be lifted. The local inserted language into its contracts that any recycling would be done by USW workers.

Other job creation initiatives Potter and Lamerson raised with White concerned the creation of an energy hub that would include small modular reactors, recycling of steel beams, worker training and re-establishing a petrochemical initiative a former DOE Secretary proposed several years ago.

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