Managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (OEM), the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund supports the cleanup of some of the nation’s most contaminated areas. The polluted sites are all former production facilities used during the Cold War to supply enriched uranium for nuclear warheads and commercial nuclear reactors. Located in Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, the plants encompass more than 30 million square feet of floor space, miles of interconnecting pipes and thousands of acres of land that are contaminated with radioactive and hazardous materials. Cleanup of the sites isn’t expected to be completed until 2040 and cost upwards of $20 billion.
The nation’s uranium enrichment program was created in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project, the top secret program that produced the world’s first atomic weapons. Enriched uranium was a key component of the weapons, but the material did not exist naturally in the quantities needed. So the federal government built special gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs) that could chemically alter uranium into an enriched form. These plants featured gigantic complexes of inter-connected facilities and pipes, making them some of the largest buildings ever constructed in the United States.
(Sherrod Brown Website)
Established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund (D&D Fund) was created for a 15-year period to help dismantle and cleanup the nation’s three gaseous diffusion plants located in Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. The task of completing decontamination and decommissioning of these facilities falls under the auspices of the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, which manages the D&D Fund.
Because some uranium processing is still ongoing at Paducah, cleanup and dismantling won’t begin until 2017, with completion not until sometime in the decade beginning 2040 at the earliest.
Among the many stakeholders involved in the D&D Fund, one of the largest is defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin. A division of Lockheed Martin is the managing contractor for the USEC and runs the day-to-day operations at the three GDPs. Another division, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, is DOE's management contractor for environmental restoration and waste management activities at the Paducah and Portsmouth sites. It is also the operations contractor at the Oak Ridge site.
US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has been particularly active in efforts to renew the D&D Fund. He has also been a vocal critic of the Bush administration for its decisions affecting the cleanup of the Portsmouth site (see Controversies).
Budget Cuts for Piketon
When Barack Obama selected Inés R. Triay for the position of Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (OEM), he decided that her qualifications as a 24-year veteran of the Energy Department, including her oversight of a key nuclear waste disposal plant, trumped any concerns about her political contributions to former President George W. Bush. She took over the leadership of the Office of Environmental Management (OEM) in May 2009 after leading it in an acting capacity since November 2008. Triay is in charge of the US government’s primary cleanup operation of nuclear waste, which involves more than 100 sites located across the United States.