University of Kentucky students plan for post-PGDP Paducah
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Department of Energy has made it clear. They plan to close the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant at some time in the not too distant future.
That leaves 2,300 acres, several enormous buildings and some significant underground contamination behind, not to mention the 3,000 direct and indirect jobs the site supports.
Plus, how do you clean up the mess left behind and eventually reuse the site?
Those are questions a group of University of Kentucky students set out to answer in an exhibit that gained lots of attention from leaders.
Local 6 got a chance to see the plan on display at the University of Kentucky.
U.K. researchers have spent nearly two years developing exhibits that show us what Paducah could look like after the PGDP is gone. It was no easy project.
"It's not typical that architects are asked to deal with toxic plumes."
The U.K. student architects aren't just dealing with contamination, but also with questions of what and how to build after one of the area's largest employers leaves.
It's just the idea that there's something coming up from nothing.
The Atomic City assignment is graduating senior Katherine Vanhoose's last.
"It's not about the grade," she said, laughing.
She showed us her plans for high speed rail, businesses and homes. It's obvious she hopes the plans become reality.
"It's important," she said. "It's where I'm from. It's where I grew up. It means a lot to me."
But the project must first overcome a huge hurdle. This is about more than just rebuilding. Decontamination must be done and that is where we introduce the skimmers, the swimmers and the diggers.
And that's where fellow U.K. student Taylor Steele loses some people.
"They think I'm nuts," he said with a laugh.
But Steele swears he's not and said the so-called "critters" or inanimate objects would make their way beneath the surface, break down toxins and then decompose on their own. People could track the progress online.
"This now becomes more of a public issue," Steele said. "These people can see how the remediation is taking place."
Steele said after explaining the process, most folks get the idea and like it.
Their professor couldn't be more proud.
"I'm much more hopeful about the future because I work with them," said U.K.'s Gary Rohrbacher.
He said he's overwhelmed by the positive response from the science community. As an example, he said one is exhibit is missing. It turns out, the Department of Energy scientists liked it so much, they had to hold on to it for a while.
The department's Paducah site leader said while these are just ideas, they're good ideas.
The exhibits will eventually be on display at Western Kentucky Community and Technical College.