USEC may furlough employees if U.S. shutdown drags on


By Garima Goel

Oct 2 (Reuters) - USEC Inc may have to furlough someemployees at a uranium enrichment project if the U.S. governmentshutdown extends beyond Oct. 15, a company spokesman said.

USEC, a supplier of enriched uranium for commercial nuclearpower plants, needs about $48 million to complete the$350-million American Centrifuge project in Ohio, which is 80percent funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The plant, which will produce low-enriched uranium used tomake nuclear fuel, employs 959 workers, mainly in Ohio andTennessee. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of thisyear.

"The money that would allow us to carry on for the next twoweeks is the fiscal year 2013 funds that we have been able tocarry over," Paul Jacobson, vice-president of corporatecommunications, told Reuters.

Congressional Republicans and the White House are in astalemate over government funding, which has forced the firstgovernment shutdown in 17 years.

USEC, which has about 1,770 employees, did not disclose howmany employees could be furloughed.

"We would have to consider a variety of options related tosuppliers and furlough of employees and so forth," Jacobsonsaid, adding that slowing work was another option.

The company has another uranium enrichment plant in Paducah,Kentucky. The project is owned by the DOE and operated by USEC.

The company is in talks with the DOE to return its lease onthe project and the shutdown could delay the process, Jacobsonsaid.

USEC shares have risen 40 percent in the last three months.But traders have attributed the spike to a short squeeze, arapid gain that occurs when traders who had bet that a stockwould fall cover their bets in order to protect themselvesagainst further losses.

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