Toronto-based company pushing to refine unused nickel at Paducah DOE site

PADUCAH — Thousands of tons of nickel at the Paducah Department of Energy site could help spur economic development in the region. The Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization, or PACRO, heard a presentation Wednesday on ways to begin refining the nickel.

There are about 9,700 tons of nickel ingots along with about 6,000 tons of nickel still in the old equipment at the DOE site. Chemical Vapour Metal Refining (CVMR), a Toronto-based metal refining company, is looking to help refine the radioactive metal. CVMR President Michael Hargett said, once refined, the nickel could be used in things like car and phone batteries.

“Those materials are high purity, and unfortunately they are contaminated with a number of radioactive isotopes,” Hargett said. “We have a process that separates the clean metal from those isotopes and generates a very valuable product.”

CVMR is interested in opening a plant in Paducah to take care of the unused nickel. Hargett said it would be an investment of $75 to 100 million into the area.

“Our process does not use any water. We have no emissions from the plant, and we have no residues or waste that are produced from the plant. As such, we are environmentally neutral,” Hargett said.

CVMR Michael Hargett presents to the PACRO board.

McCracken County Commission member and PACRO Chair Eddie Jones views that as a long-term effort to create jobs in west Kentucky.

“That’s the hope is we can use these types of opportunities not just in a way that we have been doing, which is creating industrial sites away from DOE, but a way to actually turn the DOE into jobs and continuing jobs,” Jones said.

Hargett added that the region is an ideal location for the plant, especially with a workforce being available in the area.

“Chemical technicians were the individuals that produced the enriched uranium at Paducah,” Hargett said. “That same skillset of understanding the process, understanding the quality parameters, the controls, the sensors, how this all works, that’s the kind of person we need.”

There are some obstacles in the way of the plant. The federal government has ownership of the nickel and the DOE site. There’s also a moratorium in place that won’t allow any work to be done on the nickel.

Hargett said he and CVMR plan to meet with the Department of Energy to see if the moratorium can be amended or taken away.

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