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Demolition plan OK'd for buildings at southern Ohio uranium plant where cleanup is underway

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — State and federal agencies have agreed on a plan for demolishing huge buildings and other facilities from a Cold War-era uranium plant in southern Ohio.

It is the latest development in the lengthy decontamination and decommissioning process for the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, which was built in the 1950s and produced enriched uranium for defense and commercial uses until 2001. Its shutdown left old buildings, chemicals and radioactive areas that must be addressed.

The demolition plan and recent approval of plans for waste removal and disposal at the site are considered big steps for the cleanup and potential redevelopment.

"These decisions are a major milestone in moving the D&D project forward in a safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible manner," the U.S. Department of Energy office overseeing that work said in a statement.

It said the structures slated for demolition include the three process buildings, each with more than 30 acres under one roof. The cleanup plans allow for recycling of equipment and building materials if that can be done in a safe, cost-effective way.

"With this document in place, DOE can begin its work to secure funding and mobilize for cleanup," Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler said in a statement.

Commissioners from Pike County and neighboring Jackson, Ross and Scioto counties also are pushing for funding. They sent letters in mid-July to the U.S. energy secretary and the Office of Management and Budget saying that the project could end up tens of millions of dollars short in the near term because of budget allotments and other changes that affected the funding stream.

"We were extremely disappointed in the Department of Energy for failing to once again provide adequate funding for the project to avoid interruptions with progress and significant employee layoffs," they said in one of the letters, which were also signed by presidents of two local unions that represent workers there.

They suggest hundreds of jobs could be jeopardized, a big concern in a pocket of Ohio with high unemployment.

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