State Senators ask Sec. Chu to support loan guarantee for American Centrifuge Project

September 2, 2009

State Senators ask Sec. Chu to support loan guarantee for American Centrifuge Project

(NASHVILLE, TN), September 2, 2009 –Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and several other key leaders in the Tennessee State Senate have asked U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to intervene and support granting a loan guarantee for the American Centrifuge Project in Oak Ridge.  The lawmakers, who sent a letter to Chu last week, said 1,500 Tennessee jobs could be in jeopardy if the Department of Energy (DOE) does not act on the matter.

Among those signing the letter to Secretary Chu were Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), Environment Chairman Steve Southerland (R-Morristown),
Transportation Committee Chairman  Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), Calendar Committee Chairman Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill), Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) and Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman).

 “The American Centrifuge project is one of those key opportunities where we can promote innovative American technologies, while creating good-paying Tennessee jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy,” said Senator McNally.  “The loan guarantee is critical to moving this project forward.”

A U.S. company USEC Inc. is working in Oak Ridge to revitalize DOE’s technology, improve it and put it to work in the first U.S. owned and operated uranium enrichment facility in half a century.  The project has been an economic boon in Oak Ridge as new nuclear scientists and engineers work side by side with some of the retired people that
developed the original technology.  However, USEC has run into challenges due to the current economic environment and construction activities on the project are being demobilized as the company works with DOE to meet financial and technical criteria needed to obtain financing under the loan guarantee program.

 “We hope this will simply be a temporary disruption,” added Senator Yager. “The American Centrifuge is not just important for Tennessee, but for the entire country.  Losing a project like the American Centrifuge further reduces our nuclear energy leadership role globally.  In the end, we may find ourselves just as dependent on foreign sources of
energy as we are now unless we have this in our mix of solutions for energy independence.”

“Energy independence will be achieved by producing abundant, clean and affordable domestic energy through new technology, like that being developed in this project,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Woodson.  “While nuclear power produces only 20 percent of America’s electricity, it produces 70 percent of carbon-free, pollution-free electricity.  That is why it is so important to any plan to gain energy independence.”

“Failure to proceed in developing this technology would result in loss of jobs in Tennessee, relocation of domestic industries abroad, and rising energy prices which will impact consumers’ lives,” said Senator Burchett.

“This project has put Tennessee right back in the middle of our nation’s energy future,” added Senator Faulk.  “After losing ground technologically to companies overseas in the aftermath of the moratorium on nuclear construction, we are finally reemerging in technological advancements and positioning Tennessee as a world leader in this field.  We cannot afford to take a step back in these efforts.”

“Tennessee, and particularly Oak Ridge, has a strong legacy in energy production,” Senator Tracy. “If we are to achieve any success at reducing carbon emissions, nuclear energy must be a part of the solution.”

“Alternative energies like wind and solar will play an important role in America’s future, but it remains clear that nuclear energy is critical to creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign energy,” Senator Southerland concluded.  “We need the DOE to act quickly to support this project.”


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