Ohio's governor is urging President Barack Obama to include in his plan for creating U.S. jobs support for a uranium enrichment project in southern Ohio that has had difficulty securing a $2 billion federal loan guarantee that the developer says is necessary for construction to move ahead.
"(W)ithout a commitment for the loan guarantee very soon the entire project is at risk, including the 2,000 jobs currently associated with it," Gov. John Kasich said, in a letter to the president dated Tuesday.
The Republican governor wrote that he has toured the American Centrifuge Plant project in Piketon, about 65 miles south of Columbus, and that it's important to national security and national energy security and could mean up to 8,000 jobs across the country. Nearly half would be in Ohio, and Kasich noted that the site is in a part of the state where counties have reported unemployment near 15 percent.
The U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 rejected a $2 billion loan guarantee for the project, with officials indicating they didn't believe it was ready to move forward. But they allowed the developer, Bethesda, Md.-based USEC Inc., to keep trying.
Energy department spokesman Bill Gibbons said the agency is evaluating USEC's proposal and does not comment on the status of applications.
"DOE is committed to processing all pending applications -- including USEC's -- as quickly as possible, while ensuring that taxpayer funds are appropriately protected," he said.
The plant, at the site of a former gaseous diffusion plant that enriched uranium during the Cold War, would produce enriched uranium for use in generating electricity at nuclear power plants.
"The project needs your leadership to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and unleash this catalyst for job creation and energy innovation," Kasich wrote to Obama.
The governor sent his letter as the president prepared to send Congress a package of at $300 billion in proposals to create jobs, following the worst month for hiring nationwide since September 2010. The U.S. unemployment rate was stuck at 9.1 percent in August, same as in July.