Scientists cleaning up nuclear waste sites in West Valley, South Carolina and the state of Washington have a process that turns the waste into glass logs and they all use a substance produced in a Jamestown plant.
RHI Monofrax is the only producer in the hemisphere which makes special glass material used by the Department of Energy. The company has part of the plant set aside and workers ready to make more.
Senator Charles Schumer held a news conference Monday at the Jamestown plant urging Washington to stop shuffling papers and order the material to do the nuclear cleanups it has agreed to do.
“The federal government must do all it can to protect RHI Monofrax, a company that employs nearly 250 people in Chautauqua County and produces a one-of-a-kind product that is critical to containing hazardous nuclear waste. That is why I’m urging the Department of Energy to adopt a common sense procurement strategy when it comes to buying these materials,” said Schumer.
“The Department of Energy has announced a need to purchase $75 million in nuclear waste disposal materials that are only manufactured at RHI, but they currently plan on buying them in dribs and drabs over the next 25 years. This schedule must be sped up, so that RHI Monofrax can meet production demands and help with the disposal of nuclear waste across the country. If the Department of Energy fails to fast-track this procurement, Western New York could lose the ability to complete the order on time while nuclear cleanup sites are left with undisposed nuclear waste, and the Department of Energy could be left with a larger bill.”
“The Department of Energy slow walking our contract has put RHI Monofrax in Falconer in a dangerous place,” said RHI President Daryl Clendenen. “Senator Schumer’s efforts to help us cut through the red tape come at a vital time for our company and our employees. With the Senator’s help it is my hope that the Department of Energy heeds our call and makes this change, giving us greater flexibility and helping in the efforts to keep RHI open and operating in Chautauqua County.”
Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards says the plant is a major high-tech employer in his county, with a century of experience.
“We have been working with RHI Monofrax for nine months on a very unique business situation where they are sole supplier to the Department of Energy for an important part of the vitrification process to contain nuclear waste,” said Greg Edwards. “
Edwards says Monofrax may be forced into some worker decisions if the Energy Department doesn't shuffle paperwork faster for the company.
"The high level of the training of the quality and training of its workforce is why it is critical to keep them moving forward," said Edwards.
Edwards says Monofrax also supplies materials for other key producers of glass, like Corning Glass.