LOUISVILLE — The federal government and a U.S. Department of Energy contractor have reached a $230,000 settlement over allegations that the company improperly handled and disposed of radioactive waste from a nuclear reprocessing plant in Western Kentucky.
The settlement, unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Paducah, does not require Bechtel Jacobs to admit fault related to the improper disposals from 1998 through 2004.
The settlement ends a 10-year legal battle started by two former employees at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant on behalf of the federal government. The employees sued in 2002, claiming Bechtel Jacobs mishandled waste from the plant over a six year period.
The plant produces enriched uranium for use at nuclear power plants.
Attorneys for the two men who brought the whistleblower lawsuit did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
A message left for the media relations office of Bechtel Jacobs, which also handled cleanup at the Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Piketon, Ohio, facilities, was not immediately returned Thursday.
The case centered on allegations brought by two former Bechtel Jacobs employees, Gary Vander Boegh, who held different jobs for 14 years at the plant including landfill manager, and George Johnson, who worked in various capacities for 13 years.
The two men claimed in the lawsuit filed in 2002 that Bechtel Jacobs, which had contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy, improperly subcontracted with a company called Weskem to dispose of radioactive waste, even though Weskem did not have the proper licenses and permits to do so.
That resulted in the United States being billed for services related to waste removal that was improperly handled as "nonhazardous" when it should have been dealt with as hazardous waste from April 1996 through January 2002.
The company also improperly stored "no radiation added" waste at the Paducah plant and disposed of that material at a site designated for radioactive waste, even though disposing of it at the plant's sanitary landfill would have been cheaper, according to the settlement agreement.