Sen. Paul Demands Answers, Action on Depleted Uranium Supply in Western Kentucky
WASHINGTON, D.C - Sen. Rand Paul today took to the Senate floor to delay the nomination of five key Energy Department nominees, instead demanding for answers and action from Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, regarding re-enriching the depleted uranium supply currently located in Western Kentucky. The following is a video and transcript of his floor conversation with Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
SEN. PAUL: Reserving the right to object, I would like to accommodate the President in these nominees.
I think the chairman and the distinguished Senator from New Mexico has made very good points about their qualifications, but I would be remiss if I did not rise in support of 1,200 jobs in Paducah, Ky., who are threatened to be lost because the Department of Energy is refusing to address the situation.
We have a company that has 1,200 jobs in Paducah, Ky., that enriches uranium. For 50 years, uranium has been accumulating and it sits on the ground as a waste product. We could recycle this, it's a green project.
It costs no taxes. In fact, it will actually bring back money to the Treasury. And what I would like is help from the Chairman as well as the President, as well as Secretary Chu on this issue. I have written to Secretary Chu and we haven't heard back. This is very important to us.
We are in the midst of a great recession, and 1,200 people are destined to lose their jobs. Once again, this doesn't cause any spending, doesn't cost any taxes, and actually if you would allow us to re-enrich this uranium, it would bring money back to the Treasury.
At is my reason for holding this, and I would hope that we could find some reason and means to accommodate each other. Until that time, I would continue to object to these nominations.
SEN. BINGAMAN: Madam President, maybe if I could just be clear to exactly what action the Senator from Kentucky is requesting of the Secretary.
I know that he indicated that the Secretary -- he had contacted the Secretary or written to the Secretary and had not heard back, but is there some specific action that the Secretary is being asked to take that we could clarify so that we would know whether this is a request that could be accommodated?
SEN. PAUL: Madam President, in response to that question, yes, the government owns the uranium. It has been sitting there for 50 years.
It's my understanding that the Department of Energy or the President could at any time sign a statement saying that uranium can be enriched. It is really completely under the prerogative.
Twelve-hundred jobs could be saved. These are good-paying jobs. Many of these are union jobs. These are people who I would like to help in my state, and it doesn't cost the government anything, it doesn't cost the taxpayer anything. In fact, it uses a waste product that is sitting on the ground.
We have an agreement, we have worked with United Uranium Mine Workers, we have worked with Senators and Congressmen from different states to try to get this figured out, but all it takes is a signature from the Department of Energy to allow them to enrich this uranium.
The Defense Department has written statements saying that they could use this uranium. The GAO has said that this would bring back -- and this is the best use of this waste product.
But I believe the Secretary of Energy through a stroke of a pen could save these 1,200 jobs, and that's what I am asking for help with.
SEN. BINGAMAN: Madam President, let me just indicate to my colleague from Kentucky that I am encouraged to hear that this is an action that could be taken without any cost to the taxpayer. That, I think, is obviously an important thing.
I don't know all the arguments for and against the action that the Senator is advocating here or requesting, but we certainly will look into that.
Let me ask one additional question, if I could, Madam President, and that is whether if we are able to accommodate the Senator from Kentucky with regard to this request he has made to the Secretary of Energy, is that the only objection he's aware of to the approval of these five nominees, or are we going to have additional Senators coming to the floor, raising additional objections in the future even if this action is taken?
SEN. PAUL: Madam President, this is my only objection, and if the Senator were to help me save these 1,200 jobs, we would erect a monument to you in Kentucky. This is a big deal to us, and it doesn't cost anything, and I will do everything within my power to make sure there is no objection on our side.
I think it is the President's prerogative, and I will help facilitate this process as soon as possible. This would be a huge thing for us in Kentucky if we could save these jobs.
SEN. BINGAMAN: Well, Madam President, obviously, I don't want a monument erected to me in Kentucky, but I do appreciate the Senator from Kentucky indicating his commitment to help get these nominees approved if some accommodation could be found for his concern.
As I say, I have no knowledge of this particular issue and I don't know whether the request that the Senator from Kentucky making is within the realm of possibilities or not, but we will certainly go as far as to investigate the issue and try to get a response back to the Senator as to what the Department of Energy's view on this issue is, and that much I can certainly commit to the Senator from Kentucky.
But I appreciate his willingness to discuss the issue here on the Senate floor, and I also very much, as I have said before, appreciate his commitment to help us get these nominees approved if some accommodation of his concerns can be agreed upon.