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

Clean Energy Footprints:

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.


5 Responses to “Nuclear Enrichment Plant to Close, TVA Coal Power to Run it no Longer Needed”

  1. Most of the environmental damage of nuclear power has yet to be paid for, and probably never will be. Its an unpaid bill. Its not the pretty picture you see in brochures.

    There are the processing plants;
    West Valley reprocessing plant in New York
    “remaining cleanup was estimated in 2008 to cost an additional US$5 billion and take another 40 years”.

    Then there are,
    Abandoned Uranium Mines
    there are about 4,000 mines with documented production (US)
    “as much as 50-86% of the original activity of the ore is retained in the mill tailings”
    “hazardous stable elements….,including arsenic,copper,selenium,vanadium,molybdenum, and other heavy trace heavy metals.”
    The same thing is repeated in Canada. Most of the early mines were open pit. There are huge numbers of open mines creating toxic pit lakes.

    Mines not only leak, they are a disaster waiting to happen and do happen.

    Church Rock uranium mine disaster.

    “Over 1,000 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and 93 millions of gallons of acidic, radioactive tailings solution flowed into the Puerco River, and contaminants traveled 80 miles (130 km) downstream to Navajo County, Arizona”
    The tailings solution had a pH of 1.2,[13] a gross alpha particle activity 128,000 picocuries per liter, and contained radioactive uranium, thorium, radium, polonium, metals including cadmium, aluminum, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, sodium, vanadium, zinc, iron, lead, and high concentrations of sulfates.

    Then there are the spent fuels that have to be guarded for eternity,

    And someone has to pay to put a roof over Chernobyl and Fukushima… for eons.

    Then there are the uranium workers and nearby families

    Navajo miners contracted lung cancer at much higher rates than the rest of the population, and they have suffered higher rates of other lung diseases caused by breathing in radon.[1]

    In areas near uranium mills, residents suffer stomach cancer at rates 15 times those of the national level. In some areas, the frequency gets as high as 200 times the national average.[3] Hundreds of abandoned uranium mines with exposed tailings remain unremediated in the Navajo Nation area posing a contamination hazard.[18] Near the former uranium mills, water contamination and contamination of rocks which many residents used to build their houses, continue to be problems.[

    How much does that cost? Is it worth it at any cost?

  2. Sounds like a recipe for disaster!

  3. junkdrawer88 Says:

    Decommissioning nightmare #2187

    Who the hell does the lifecycle planning for this industry? Scarlett O’Hara?

    “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

  4. joffan7 Says:

    Paducah had to adapt or close. They failed to adapt to the centrifuge enrichment world and this closure is the result.

    Centrifuge enrichment is a couple of thousand times more efficient than the diffusion technology used at Paducah, and has been around for 40 years or so. The capacity at Paducah was built up early, initially to support the military need for enrichment under government ownership, and run long past its replacement date almost on a charity basis.

    Other – centrifuge – enrichment plants are open. A laser enrichment plant, even more efficient, has passed approvals.

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