Officials seek cleanup funding for Ohio uranium plant

PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s U.S. senators are again pushing for continued federal funding for the cleanup of a Cold War-era uranium plant in southern Ohio where workers periodically have been warned about the threat of layoffs for several years.

Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman have asked top members on the Senate Committee on Appropriations and Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to include funding for work at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon in any short-term continuing resolution that may pass through the committee or subcommittee.

A continuing resolution is a temporary spending measure that can be used by legislators to continue funding programs until both the House and Senate reach an agreement on a final budget for the next fiscal year that also has the president’s approval.

Funding for the cleanup has been included in an appropriations bill that passed by the Senate earlier this year, but awaits House action.

The plant produced enriched uranium for defense and commercial uses until 2001, and its shutdown left behind chemicals, radioactive areas and old buildings. The cleanup is expected to take decades and offers some of the best-paying jobs in a pocket of high unemployment.

Warnings of the potential for large-scale layoffs have loomed over the plant’s workers in recent years. But a bill signed last year by President Barack Obama that included more than $200 million for cleanup operations brought some relief.

Jeff Wagner, a spokesman for main contractor Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, said the senators’ letter shows the state’s Congressional delegation is staying on top of the situation. He said Fluor remains active in the funding discussions.