Stimulus funds to be used in Paducah

June 14, 2009 

PADUCAH — The project to clean up contaminated buildings at a nuclear enrichment plant in Paducah is getting a $40 million boost from federal stimulus money.

Ted Theopolos, spokesman for the Lexington-based Department of Energy project office that oversees the plant, said the funds will go toward hiring more than 50 people over the next two months to work on the plant site.

The Paducah Sun reports that Paducah Remediation Services will do the work under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, which owns the plant.

"Right now, the way funding is running, the jobs are probably going to last about two years until September 2011," Theopolos said. "After that, there may be other jobs that come open that these people may apply for."

The program is open to anyone in need of work, he said.

Paducah's share is about 1.3 percent of $6 billion in new stimulus funding to hasten nuclear cleanup and create thousands of jobs across 12 states, including Tennessee, which is receiving $755 million for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Illinois, which is getting $99 million for work at the Argonne National Laboratory.

The funds for Paducah are slated to help remove a 65,000-square-foot foundry operation where workers made uranium metal from the 1950s to the 1970s; a 200,000-square-foot complex used from 1957 to 1977 to manufacture uranium hexafluoride and fluorine; and a series of buildings where metal scrap, mainly contaminated nickel, was smelted from the late 1970s to 1986.

Each of the projects is set to be completed ahead of schedule, some by as much as two decades.

Eight people have been hired to date, including 59-year-old John Crowder, who was laid off in late 2005 from his 19-year job as a maintenance mechanic at Mayfield's Continental Tire plant. The factory later closed, costing hundreds of jobs.

Crowder and his seven new co-workers are undergoing six weeks of extensive training, including how to work around chemical and radiation hazards, in enclosed spaces or on high lifts.

Afterward, they will work on one of the three facilities to be removed by Sept. 30, 2011, clearing almost 300,000 square feet of unused space at the plant.

"A lot of companies feel older workers are through," Crowder said. "To get hired, I feel good."

Crowder is among the first to receive offers through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to accelerate cleanup, said Reinhard Knerr, who leads cleanup for DOE at the Paducah plant.

"Once final planning efforts are complete, we expect total employment opportunities to reach up to about 160," he said. "These are good, well-paying jobs."

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