MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - The United States Enrichment Corporation sent notices to more than a thousand workers, announcing that layoffs will start in August.
160 employees will initially lose their jobs. The remainder of the layoffs will occur in stages during this year and next.
So what's next for the plant?
A spokesperson at the Department of Energy said there are three possibilities, a so called 'cold' or 'dirty' shutdown is one of them. This could happen if the Department of Energy doesn't get enough money for a major cleanup. The plant would sit idle until funds were available for that project. Friday, Local 6 learned this isn't what the D.O.E. wants as they've asked the president to include $180 millions in next year's budget for cleanup.
Secondly, the D.O.E. could get that funding, and a major decontamination and decommissioning project would begin. That project would take a very large workforce, and decades to complete.
Thirdly, the D.O.E. could lease the facility to another company, like U.S.E.C., who would continue to enrich uranium at the site.
Local 6 caught up with a man with lots of experience in uranium enrichment and says he and his company are still very interested in that plant and re-hiring the majority of the workforce.
Downtown Paducah walkers admire the art and get a lesson in the atomic city's history.
Meanwhile, reality for workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is sinking in. The U.S.E.C. era is ending.
"This is a first step towards the next step, and then the question is what is the next step," Jim Thomas said.
He has already said he wants to be that next step. He's just waiting on a word from the Department of Energy.
"We're very confident we know how to operate the plant. We're very confident we'll get the incentives. We're very confident that we're working with potential customers now. We've had customers interested in what we want to so, we think our plan is very valid," Thomas said.
He's partnering with Idaho-based International Isotopes, but he's not alone. G.E. Hitachi also expressed interest in the facility. A spokesperson there was tight-lipped but told Local 6, they are exploring their options.
Thomas says there's still at least five years of life left in the 61-year-old plant.
"It looks very good for us, and very good for D.O.E.," Thomas said.
He wants to be the one to make sure the atomic city is more than a few murals and a memory.
Thomas said his technology would be similar to U.S.E.C.'s by using gaseous diffusion to enrich uranium. While it is an outdated technology, he says the infrastructure is already in place and the workforce trained,
so it would be much cheaper than rebuilding.
Thomas said he would employ about 600 to 700 people. Not as many as U.S.E.C., but his company would operate for up to five years.
The congressional delegation from Kentucky has asked the D.O.E. to submit their plans for the plant by June 14, but a D.O.E. spokesperson indicated the details may not be released by that date.