Fleischmann predicts big payoff for state in Y-12 uranium facility

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By Damon Lawrence

A lot of people were thankful when Volkswagen decided to build a production plant in Chattanooga.

“Not only will Chattanooga be forever changed, but our entire state will reap great benefits from the new suppliers that this facility will attract,” U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said in 2008.

Imagine the equivalent of nine Volkswagen plants coming to this area.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann  said that’s what will happen because of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12.

“It’s $6.5 billion worth of federal funding,” Fleischmann said. “It is the single largest construction project the state of Tennessee has ever seen.”

Fleischmann’s 11-county 3rd Congressional District includes Roane. He spoke about the Uranium Processing Facility and other projects during a meeting with county officials last week at The Roane Alliance in Kingston.

“The needs in Morgan County are different than the needs in Hamilton County,” he said. “Just like the needs in Roane County are different from the needs in Monroe County, so I wanted to be out so I could make sure I was addressing all of your needs.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration said Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC will be responsible for designing and overseeing construction of the Uranium Processing Facility.

It’s described as a “state-of-the-art, consolidated facility for enriched uranium operations including assembly, disassembly, dismantle-
ment, quality evaluation and product certification.”

Even though Y-12 is in Anderson County, Roane County Executive Ron Woody said he expects Roane County residents to benefit from the jobs that will be created.

“It’s rebuilding Y-12,” Woody said. “It is the largest construction project in Tennessee history. Roane County and the region will have a lot of jobs during the construction phase.”

The NNSA selected John Eschenberg as the project director for the Uranium Processing Facility.

“He told me that with the UPF, they’re going to start with local first in terms of jobs – local meaning Anderson and Roane – Tennessee second, the United States and only if they have to will they go overseas,” Fleischmann said.

Woody said he also expects the project to create a number of spin-off jobs.

“We may have some companies that will locate here or put a division here so they can supply construction materials,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

Fleischmann also spoke about the small modular reactor project planned for the old breeder reactor site in Roane County along the Clinch River.

Last year, the Department of Energy announced an award to support the project.

“The project supported by the award will be led by Babcock & Wilcox in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel,” DOE said in a press release.

Fleischmann said employing small modular reactor technology is critical to the nation’s future.

“We made sure that the very first and only one they approved is going to be at Clinch River,” he said. “That’s going to be incredible.”

Fleischmann also warned officials about taking projects like the Uranium Processing Facility and small modular reactor for granted.

“If we’re not ever vigilant, we’ll lose that to somewhere else in the country,” he said.

“I know it because I serve with other members [of Congress] who would love to have the opportunities that we have here.”