Dozens of people are out of a job in Oak Ridge where crews continue the demolition and clean-up of a historic Manhattan Project site.
Wayne McKinney with Department of Energy contractor UCOR announced 41 "position reductions" in its subcontractor workforce. Of those 41 positions, 35 were working on the clean-up of the historic K-25 uranium enrichment plant that was during the Manhattan Project in World War II. Six of the laid off workers were assigned to prepare the K-27 demolition project.
McKinney said the cuts come as UCOR prepares for the new fiscal year on October 1, 2012. McKinney also said this type of reduction is not unusual as construction projects progress.
"You talk to them and they're concerned, they don't want to lay people off because you've got a trained workforce here," said Beehan.
UCOR's cost-cutting is one of several cases of DOE contractors preparing for an uncertain federal budget. B&W Y-12 planned several cuts prior to this summer's break-in by three protesters at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.
The mayor of Oak Ridge said right now the economy in Oak Ridge is a mixed bag of some overwhelmingly positive news along with negatives such as the current layoffs.
"We're always concerned about the loss of federal funds here, but in the big picture of things we're pretty optimistic about the future of Oak Ridge and what happens here as far as DOE is concerned," said Mayor Tom Beehan. "You talk to them [UCOR] and they're concerned. They don't want to lay people off because you've got a trained workforce here."
In the big picture, Beehan mentioned the $6 billion plan to build a Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Y-12.
"That UPF project is an enormous project. It's the same kind of shot in the arm for the economy that you get when they built things like the Volkswagen plant or some other major projects," said Beehan.
Beehan said keeping as many workers as possible on the K-25 cleanup is vital for the success of another major project in Oak Ridge. The proposed Manhattan Project National Park would utilize the property at K-25. Thursday night the U.S. House voted on a bill that would fund the new national park. The measure failed to receive the required two-thirds super majority. However, Oak Ridge leaders are confident it will pass in the future because the bill received bi-partisan support with 237 votes in favor and 180 votes against.
"It had enough votes to win the majority. We feel like it has a great shot of being passed when it is reintroduced during the lame duck session later this year," said Beehan.