Nuclear Enrichment Plant to Close, TVA Coal Power to Run it no Longer Needed
June 7, 2013
Enriching Uranium has long been one of the most energy – and coal – intensive processes on the planet. Now that is going away, leaving a legacy. Tom Neilson’s song above relates the human cost to “Heroes of the Cold War”. ( With permission, bookings at firstname.lastname@example.org)
After 61 years, the USEC gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, KY , which produces enriched uranium, is shutting its doors and ending its longstanding power purchase contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority. As plans for new nuclear plants were scrapped, demand for enriched uranium dropped. This changing landscape resulted in a global surplus of enriched uranium, making continued operation of the USEC plant unnecessary. TVA’s Shawnee coal plant, whose first units came online in 1953, sits next door to the USEC plant and has provided power to the plant for the past 60 years. Now that USEC is ceasing operations, the future of the Shawnee plant is in question.
Disaster is about to strike in western Kentucky, a full-blown nuclear catastrophe involving hundreds of tons of enriched uranium tainted with plutonium, technetium, arsenic, beryllium and a toxic chemical brew. But this nuke calamity will be no fluke. It’s been foreseen, planned, even programmed, the result of an atomic extortion game played out between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the most failed American experiment in privatization, the company that has run the Paducah plant into the poisoned ground,USEC Inc.
As now scheduled, main power to the gargantuan gaseous diffusion uranium plant at Paducah, Kentucky, will be cut at midnight on May 31, just nine days from now—cut because USEC has terminated its power contract with TVA as of that time [“USEC Ceases Buying Power,” Paducah Sun, April 19, page 1] and because DOE can’t pick up the bill.
DOE is five months away from the start of 2014 spending authority, needed to fund clean power-down at Paducah. Meanwhile, USEC’s total market capitalization has declined to about $45 million, not enough to meet minimum listing requirements for the New York Stock Exchange, pay off the company’s staggering debts or retain its operating licenses under financial capacity requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Paducah plant cannot legally stay open, and it can’t safely be shut down—a lovely metaphor for the end of the Atomic Age and a perfect nightmare for the people of Kentucky.