·  USW

USW Wins Congressional Approval to End Jobs Threat of Uranium Imports

Contact: Linda Andros 202-778-3301; 202-341-3477

Washington, D.C (Sept. 28) – The United Steelworkers (USW) International President, Leo W. Gerard, announced today’s Senate vote as getting special union recognition for completing congressional passage of legislation that assures America’s energy independence and protects more than 1,300 USW jobs at the commercial uranium enrichment plants owned by U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) in Paducah, KY and in Piketon, OH. 

The legislation, enacted by continuing resolution in the defense appropriations for the 2009 fiscal year, prevents Russia from taking over the U.S. market entirely by flooding it with cheap commercial-grade uranium. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the legislation on Sept. 24.

Gerard emphasized, “The United States is dangerously dependent on cheap Russian commercial uranium to fulfill our electricity demands.  That overdependence has put our workers and industry in serious jeopardy.” He adds, “I am very pleased the Democratic Congress -- working in a bipartisan fashion – stood up to Russia to keep these good-paying, middle-class jobs here in America.

“The uranium enrichment industry is vital to securing our energy independence, “Gerard said.  “Without this federal legislation, these high-skilled, family supportive jobs would be going to Russia.”

USW Local 550 President Rob Ervin, who represents the USW workforce at the sole operating enrichment plant located in Paducah, KY, said that “we are very pleased with the passage of this legislation, which protects these highly-skilled good-paying jobs.”  Ervin added, “Giving the Russians the opportunity to flood our market with cheap uranium from their vast stores of inventory would likely have overwhelmed our country’s ability to maintain and expand our commercial enrichment capacity. This legislation prevents that from happening.”

Also applauding congressional approval was USW Local 689 President Dan Minter, who represents the USW workforce at the Piketon Enrichment Facility. Like Ervin, he spent much time on the issue. He said, “This legislation protects market dynamics for commercial enriched uranium and subsequently helps retain highly-skilled jobs in the southern Ohio region.” Minter adds, “Maintaining a domestic fuel supply and expanding our capacity are key elements in meeting national energy needs.”

The legislation limits Russia’s future market share for commercial-grade uranium in the U.S. to 20 percent of total electricity demand.  That limitation will secure energy independence by maintaining existing jobs and capacity. By giving the domestic industry breathing room to construct new enrichment plants, the high-tech centrifuge plant being built in Piketon, OH will create new jobs where hundreds of USW members are employed.

During the transition, the congressional legislation ensures a stable supply from Russia’s vast store, but eliminates the threat of being overrun with cheap, dumped uranium. 

The legislation also enhances the national security interests by preventing bomb-grade uranium from getting into the hands of terrorists and is being lauded by non-proliferation experts.  It provides for an additional five percent market share if Russia agrees to continue down-blending weapons-grade uranium.

Presently, the Russians 50 percent market share is supplied by commercial uranium down-blended from 500 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium under an agreement between the two governments, which terminates at the end of 2013.  The intent is that the Russians will agree to down-blend more weapons-grade uranium if they can get an extra five percent of the highly lucrative U.S. market.

The USW represents 850,000 members employed in North America’s major industries, including the energy sector in oil refining, pipelines, gas and electric utilities, wind and other renewables. 

USW Backgrounder On Russian Uranium Imports

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