Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is continuing to take aim at the Energy Department’s practice of bartering excess uranium for cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant in Ohio.
Barrasso has cited uranium barter as the reason for his hold on Anne Marie White’s nomination for the position of assistant secretary of energy for environmental management. White has, in private meetings, declined to commit to end the program, according to the lawmaker.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted in favor of confirmation on Jan. 30, but there is no word on when White might get a floor vote on taking over the $6.5 billion annual program for cleanup of Department of Energy nuclear sites. One source said last week he expected the confirmation process might not end until late spring or early summer.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, which also has jurisdiction on White’s nomination, has not scheduled a confirmation hearing to date. A staffer said Monday the committee was looking at March 1, although “nothing is locked down yet.”
The hold by Barrasso, however, could prevent White from getting a vote from the full Senate. In a Wall Street Journal commentary last week, the Wyoming Republican said DOE trading away government uranium to contractors is one reason domestic production of uranium is “at the lowest levels since the early 1950s.”
Energy Secretary Rick Perry “took a good first step” in May 2017 when he announced a reduction in the amount of uranium bartered to contractors, Barrasso said. Perry cut the yearly barter from 1,600 metric tons to 1,200 metric tons. DOE barters uranium to Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth to help pay for cleanup of the 1950s era uranium enrichment plant. Portsmouth is the only DOE facility getting part of its cleanup money from uranium barter.
A Barrasso spokesperson could not immediately be reached Monday. Uranium barter language is retained in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal for DOE.