Ohio Town Grapples With Tearing Down a Cold War Plant

Source: Wall Street Journal | Kris Maher | April 28, 2021

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in 2007 (Credit: Al Behrman, Assoc. Press)

Department of Energy faces backlash from residents and mounting costs as it seeks to disassemble nuclear-weapons infrastructure in U.S.

Through the trees around her home, Elizabeth Lamerson can see part of the 70-year-old uranium-enrichment plant that government contractors plan to start tearing down this week. In this small Appalachian community, she and many of her neighbors say they are worried about any escape of radioactive material and the impact it could have on their health.

Ms. Lamerson and her husband believe trace amounts of uranium detected in their attic in 2019 came from the nearby plant. They want a tent or enclosure put around the buildings as they are taken down, and the couple also oppose a plan to store waste locally.

“It’s provided jobs and a lot of people continue to work there,” said Ms. Lamerson, who worked at the plant from 2007 to 2014. “What I’m against is open-air demolition and not storing waste properly.”

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon is being demolished as part of a decades-long Department of Energy project to disassemble Cold War infrastructure sites across the country. Demolishing plants like the one here, and the nation’s two other former enrichment plants in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Paducah, Ky., is costing $841 million this year.

In the fall, several former workers at the plant filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to stop the current demolition plans, among other things.

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