Congressman Tim Ryan Presses U.S. Secretary of Energy to Meet with Pike County Community to Discus Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant Cleanup and its Potential to Become an Advanced Energy Hub
Piketon, Ohio – Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) today pressed U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to meet with Pike County community leaders to discuss the challenges the community faces due to further open-air demolition of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the enormous potential the 3,700 acre plant holds as an advanced energy hub if the cleanup is done with integrity and transparency.
“The health and wellbeing of our citizens should be the number one priority of the United States government. While we are still awaiting results of the Department of Energy’s radiological testing, we know that Pike County has the highest rate of cancer incidence in the State of Ohio and that more needs to be done to protect our fellow Ohioans. That is why I called on Sec. Granholm to meet with the Pike County Community to discuss this cleanup and the potential to transform the plant into an advanced energy hub,” said Rep. Ryan.
Secretary Granholm agreed to follow up with Rep. Ryan on this issue and added in that “safety is our highest priority.”
Pike County, Ohio was selected by the U.S. government to construct a gaseous diffusion plant in the 1950s, to produce enriched uranium for our nuclear arsenal. For decades, the people of Southern Ohio worked tirelessly, keeping our country safe during the Cold War. When the Cold War ended, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Pike County was then used for commercial nuclear reactors. However, operations ceased in 2001. Since then, previous administrations decided to construct a landfill on the current site, and bury much of the contaminated waste in this community’s backyard, only 1000 ft. from the nearest resident, despite pleas and objections from the community that the waste be removed and disposed of in a safer location.
In recent years, following the Record of Decision where a determination was made to dispose of most of the waste on-site, the community discovered the presence of radioactive isotopes outside of the plant’s footprint. The local middle school was quarantined 2 years ago when a DOE monitor across the street registered positive hits for Neptunium. I have been told by community members that subsequent testing revealed the presence of enriched uranium, with a signature from the Gaseous Diffusion Plant, inside of the school. Several children that attended this middle school have been diagnosed with and succumbed to cancer. Pike County now has the highest rate of cancer incidence in the State of Ohio. The DOE has funded comprehensive radiological testing throughout the community to ascertain the extent of off-site contamination, and those results are expected later this year.