Paducah nuclear plant avoids layoffs for now

PADUCAH — Workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant will still be employed in 60 days as United States Enrichment Corp. officials continue discussions regarding future operations.

Plant spokeswoman Georgann Lookofsky told The Paducah Sun that layoff notices have not been issued to any of the plant's fewer than 1,100 workers. Lookofsky said officials from USEC, which leases the plant from the Department of Energy, is not planning to issue layoff notices.

"USEC is in the process of determining the future activities at the plant and its work force needs," Lookofsky said.

Once officials decide the future workload and personnel needs at the plant, employees will be notified in accordance with the law, Lookofsky said.

Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act, the U.S. Department of Labor requires all employers with 100 or more employees to provide notifications 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.

Commercial enrichment operations at the plant have been uncertain for some time as the market for nuclear technology dwindles. Contracts signed in 2012 with multiple parties to re-enrich high-assay depleted uranium hexafluoride, called tails, into low-enrichment uranium end May 31, and officials have been alluding to plans that the plant will shut down.

Lookofsky said that operations could still end in May, but that employees may be kept on board for a number of months to transition the plant back to the Energy Department. Lookofsky said that renewing the tails contract is also a possibility.

Jim Key, vice president of the United Steelworkers Local 550 in Paducah, said the lack of layoff notices is a good sign.

"Having not received anything gives me optimistic hope on continuing operations," he said.