Federal grant funds $2 million research effort into former Paducah nuclear site’s future
Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce is receiving $2 million in grant funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management to study future possible uses for the site of the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
Chamber president Sandra Wilson said the grant will aid in the development of potential long-term plans for the former uranium enrichment site in western Kentucky. Wilson said it could be decades before the site can be used by another industry, and that planning is key with longview projects like this.
“We felt like it was very important for our community to start now, looking at the long term future of the side,” Wilson said. “It might be 20, 30, 40, 50 years. But, we have to start now to have a roadmap for the site.”
In a Tuesday release, the Office of Environmental Management said the future use project will include site mapping, community studies, data analysis and development of recommended strategies.
Wilson said the funding – which will be administered over a three-year period – will also allow the chamber to hire a consultant to help evaluate future uses for the site. Chamber leadership hopes they can draw on some of the work that’s been done at other DOE sites to find a viable path forward for the site. .
“We want to look at the usage of the land, the current infrastructure, and then what's needed for the future workforce, and then how we can determine what the best economic development top projects for the future would be,” Wilson said.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant began operations in 1952 as a uranium enrichment site for military reactors and the nation’s nuclear weapons program. In 1964, the plant began producing fuel-grade uranium to generate electricity in nuclear reactors and ceased operations in 2013. The Department of Energy owns the plant site and oversees the decontamination and decommissioning of the site as well as environmental cleanup activities.
In a press release from the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the funding will help local groups and leaders plan the future of the site.
“Today’s funding is an important step toward reimagining the possibility and promise of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant,” McConnell said. “I look forward to seeing the Paducah Chamber of Commerce bring their vision for redevelopment to life.”