PADUCAH GASEOUS DIFFUSION PLANT
A CHALLENGE IN PROGRESS
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), located in far western Kentucky, was the last operating government-owned uranium enrichment facility in the country. Plant enrichment operations began in the early 1950s as the initial uranium enrichment step for Cold War weapons development and a growing nuclear power industry.
PGDP operations, maintenance, and process upgrades generated waste materials that were disposed of in site landfills and burial grounds, as well as waste fluids that were released to site waste and water systems, treatment lagoons and surface waterways. Leaching of disposed materials contaminated site soil and groundwater, resulting in the largest documented trichloroethene (TCE) and technetium-99 groundwater plumes in the DOE complex and among the largest TCE plume systems in the world.
During the 6 decades of enrichment operations, the PGDP contributed billions of dollars to the local economy through employment and local business. During the 1950s, 29,000 construction workers and tradesmen were employed in the construction of the PGDP, and two nearby power plants were required to supply electricity for PGDP operations. During enrichment operations, PGDP employed an average of 1,700 skilled workers and scientists to operate the enrichment process and maintain plant infrastructure.
The PGDP uranium enrichment facility (black) is located on a U.S. Department of Energy reservation (yellow) approximately 3 miles south of the Ohio River and 13 miles west of Paducah, Kentucky. The PGDP and DOE Reservation are surrounded by the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area, rural farm and residential properties and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Shawnee Steam Plant.