PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway threatened Friday to sue the U.S. Department of Energy if its cleanup of a uranium enrichment plant falls behind schedule, keeping up pressure from state leaders to hasten the work and find a new operator for the Cold War-era facility that's being shut down.
Conway also said the department gave its commitment to request an additional $35 million in the next fiscal year for cleanup at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which has supplied enriched uranium to nuclear powers plants.
USEC Inc., which leases the plant from DOE, said in May it planned to cease production and lay off most of the plant's approximately 1,100 workers. The average salary for plant workers, including benefits, is $125,000. The mass layoffs will cause ripple effects throughout the regional economy in far western Kentucky.
State leaders are urging DOE to keep to a strict cleanup schedule and to expedite efforts to find a new operator in hopes of preserving jobs at the plant.
Conway said he warned top DOE officials recently that he is prepared to go to court if the agency falls behind in the cleanup.
"If the federal government does not live up to its legal obligation to clean up the site at Paducah or they don't meet the milestones, I intend ... to take whatever action is necessary — be it shaming them, arbitrating, filing a lawsuit or whatever to make them live up to their legal and their moral obligation here," he said.
Conway also said he received an "ironclad assurance" from Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman that the Paducah plant will not become a dumping ground for nuclear material from other states if a containment facility is built on site to secure contaminated waste generated at the Kentucky facility.
Currently, DOE has $142 million in the budget for cleanup at the plant, situated 10 miles outside Paducah, Conway said. He said DOE indicated it will seek to raise that to $177 million in the next fiscal year. Conway sa