"A Uranium Project in the Political Cross Hairs"

"In the last-minute rush in Congress to finalize spending for the current fiscal year and head home for the holidays, one of the losers appears to be USEC, the uranium enrichment company, and the politics are more convoluted than ever.

USEC grew out of the Manhattan Project initiative to develop nuclear weapons and was part of the Energy Department before it was privatized in 1998. It has been trying to develop a new technology to replace the 1940s-era system that it uses to enrich uranium for use in civilian nuclear reactors. It wanted a loan guarantee from the Energy Department, but the department felt that its demonstration plant in Piketon, Ohio, was not ready for prime time.

For one thing, some of its centrifuges were damaged in a power failure, revealing safety problems.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama had promised support for USEC; another backer is John Boehner, the House speaker, whose district in southern Ohio is about 100 miles away. Mr. Boehner has been pressing Mr. Obama to make good on his pledge even while complaining that the department should not be making risky loan guarantees, as it did in Solyndra's case. The administration responded that it wanted to "reprogram" $300 million in the Energy Department's budget that USEC could spend on further development work, but only if Congress gave its stamp of approval."

Matthew L. Wald reports for the New York Times December 19, 2011.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011