U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said Friday that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will visit the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and former American Centrifuge Project facility in Piketon on July 31.
“I’m excited to announce that Secretary Perry has accepted my invitation to visit the cleanup site of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant to get a firsthand look at the cleanup work and to see the importance of the work to the local economy,” said Portman. “Secretary Perry made a personal commitment to me that he will use his executive experience to better manage the work at Piketon to ensure the site can be cleaned up faster and reindustrialized for a new purpose that will benefit the Piketon economy.”
Portman said, “I’m also pleased to show Secretary Perry the factory where the American Centrifuge Project was located. Secretary Perry understands the importance of having a domestic enrichment capability and I’m excited to showcase the potential the site still has for future enrichment activity.”
The plant was once a top facility for enriching uranium for the defense industry, as well as other uses, employing as many as 3,000 workers. The facility was placed in “cold shutdown” about seven years ago, when a cleaning and redevelopment project began.
Officials have struggled to keep federal funding flowing for the cleanup and rehab work and the jobs that come with it.
A press release announcing Perry’s visit said Portman “has worked every year to secure the funding necessary to keep the cleanup project on track and to protect jobs. Previously, Portman grilled former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz for his department’s failure to use funding provided by Congress and therefore causing layoffs in Piketon. Portman repeatedly called on the Obama Administration to uphold their promises to the Piketon community to provide adequate funding to avoid layoffs.”
A spokesperson for Portman’s office told The Times-Gazette that roughly 2,000 jobs remain at the plant.
Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-2nd Dist.) issued a statement later Friday saying, “The people of southern Ohio have made great sacrifices to support the DOE’s mission of maintaining our nuclear deterrent and the infrastructure that supports it – and they continue to make those sacrifices today through the DOE’s cleanup operations at the Piketon sight. I am pleased that Secretary Perry will be visiting the Piketon Plant in Ohio’s Second Congressional District this July to witness firsthand the critical work being done there, as well as the potential that the site has for future enrichment and energy activity. I believe a visit to Piketon will provide Secretary Perry with important information to assist in his decision making process moving forward.”
In a press release Wenstrup’s office said that in March Wenstrup, who serves as a member of the Congressional Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, “led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, urging him to visit the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio.”
The letter was also signed by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Congressman Steve Chabot (OH-01), Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13), Congressman Michael Turner (OH-10), Congressman Bill Johnson (OH-06), Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15), and Congressman David Joyce (OH-14), according to the release.