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Mechanics train with plasma arc cutting equipment at the Paducah Site | Courtesy of Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

Mechanics train with plasma arc cutting equipment at the Paducah Site | Courtesy of Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

Last year, the Paducah Site hired 240 additional employees and offered specialized training for workers through funding from the Am​erican Recovery and Reinvestment Act Paducah employees underwent extensive training to improve skills in areas including regulatory compliance, safety systems, hazard communication, hazardous materials handling, and how to use self-protective gear and operate mobile equipment such as aerial lifts, forklifts and industrial trucks.

The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the only operating uranium enrichment plant in the United States, began enriching uranium in 1952 for the nation's nuclear weapons program. Fifty-nine years later, the plant produces nuclear fuel for commercial power plants. Recently, it has been working closely with West Kentucky Community & Technical College; to customize job training. Several new and existing employees -- all members of United Steelworkers Local 550 -- had the opportunity to polish their technical skills.

“This gives people marketable skills that they might not have gained otherwise,” said Rob Seifert, Department of Energy Recovery Act Project Manager at the Paducah Site.

In-depth training and teamwork helped Paducah achieve other major Recovery Act milestones in 2010:

  • Crews logged more than 113,000 safe working hours to decontaminate and decommission a smelting complex $10 million under budget and a year ahead of schedule.
  • Paducah was then able to shift the smelter savings - plus approximately $8 million in unspent reserve and contingency funding - to the continued cleanup and demolition of two other complexes. Both the Feed Plant and C-340, which is known as the ‘metals plant,’ are slated for demolition by September 2011.

The ingenuity that characterized the smelter work will help expedite other demolitions at Paducah, Seifert said. Crews studied hundreds of building photos and used specialized equipment to remove old systems more safely and quickly.

“They did an excellent job of taking pride in their work and committing themselves to hitting milestones,” Seifert said.

Local businesses have benefitted from the investment as well. More than 60 equipment and mobile home suppliers, uniform rental stores and other small businesses benefited from Recovery Act work. 

Sales at  Rudy's Farm Center, a few miles from the Paducah Site, rose roughly 15 to 20 percent in 2010 as the company supplied equipment and tools for the Recovery Act cleanup, according to Vice President Matt Rudy.

“It’s been a definite shot in the arm,” Rudy said, noting that the farming economy has suffered in the last few years.

Aside from the short-term benefits, the accelerated removal of these facilities reduces the risk of release of hazardous or radiological material to the environment. The Recovery Act projects at the Paducah site are critical to meeting the Department of Energy’s environmental management goals, which include safely disposing large volumes of nuclear waste and deactivating and decommissioning contaminated facilities no longer needed by the Department to carry on its current mission.