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US energy official says federal government will now manage Ohio uranium enrichment project

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Energy plans to begin managing a southern Ohio uranium enrichment project overseen by a company that filed for bankruptcy last month to restructure debt.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday in Washington that the department will take over the American Centrifuge Project in Piketon, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1fyNkZB ) reported. Management would be done through its Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory.

Ohio's senators have helped lead support for funding for the project, saying it is needed for national security and domestic energy supplies and can be a boon for an economically struggling region. The project also has critics in Congress who say it's costly and unnecessary. Money for the federally funded research effort runs out this month.

Moniz said the technology and intellectual property must be protected and that the government must consider how to meet national security obligations moving forward. The department is trying to determine how to reprogram $57 million to keep the operation running.

"We have to keep it going this year," Moniz said. "Frankly, it would be very, very desirable to make sure we keep our 120 machines spinning."

He indicated the project's current operator, USEC, still would be involved, possibly as a subcontractor.

"The scope is being determined," said Paul Jacobson, a spokesman for the Bethesda, Maryland-based company.

Last month, USEC filed a 60-day warning with Ohio that it might lay off workers. The company has nearly 250 employees in Ohio.

USEC said at the time that the filing doesn't mean layoffs will occur, but that it had notified the state that they could potentially involve more than 50 jobs.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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