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Uranium project receives good news

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to strip $48 million from a proposed uranium centrifuge in Piketon, Ohio – a bit of good news for a project that has seen more than its fair share of troubles.

The money, tucked into a $30 billion bill for federal energy and water projects, would pay for the completion of a research and development project at a proposed uranium centrifuge in Piketon. That research project is hoped to convince the Department of Energy that the technology being deployed by USEC, the Maryland-based company that is operating the site, is commercially viable.

The project has been in the works for years, and USEC officials have long sought – unsuccessfully – a federal loan guarantee aimed at fully launching their factory.

But an amendment introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, aimed to strip money for the research program from the energy and water appropriations bill. His amendment was supported by a wide range of ideological groups, including fiscal watchdogs Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Taxpayers Union, as well as environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Friends of the Earth. A total of nine groups sent a letter to U.S. House members yesterday supporting the amendment, arguing that USEC’s finances are too feeble to warrant new federal dollars.

“Taxpayers can ill-afford to be pouring any more money into a fiscally unstable company and questionable project,” the group wrote.

Among those leading opposition to the amendment was Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, who argued that USEC is the only U.S.-owned company producing enriched uranium. He opposed the amendment on the House floor late Tuesday night and also spoke against it in a meeting of House conservatives Wednesday.

Turner said the issue was one of national security.

“This is a straightforward issue of domestic versus of foreign supply of critical components to our nuclear weapons,” he said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, also opposed the amendment. “It’s domestically produced uranium,” he said. “You need a domestic source for this as far as national security.”

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