Begley returns to discuss decades-long uranium decontamination effort at Kentucky site

Paducah, Ky., "Atomic City" postcard graphic

Geologist Brian Begley ’96 will return to the Hanover College campus to examine the on-going efforts to clean up a longtime uranium enrichment site in western Kentucky.

Brian Begley ’96

Begley, a 1996 Hanover graduate, will present “Environmental Cleanup of a Uranium Enrichment Facility in Kentucky and Why it will Take Until 2070 and Cost Billions!” The presentation will be held at 4 p.m., Monday, March 13, in Science Center, room 137.

Begley earned a Master of Science degree at the University of Akron in 1998 and started working at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (Paducah Site) in 1999. Since 2015, he has served as section supervisor for an operation that manages the environmental cleanup of one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites.

The Paducah Site, located in McCracken County, Ky., was originally farmland that became the location of a military ordnance plant during World War II. As the Cold War intensified, the acreage was selected for the site of a new gaseous diffusion plant as part of the Atomic Energy Commission’s expanded production of atomic weapons.

In the early 1950s, more than 29,000 workers constructed the facility, which encompassed hundreds of buildings on a 750-acre tract. From 1952-2013, the Paducah Site produced enriched uranium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program and, later, for nuclear fuel for commercial power plants. The plant was the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the U.S. from 2001-10.

The Department of Energy’s environmental management branch has conducted extensive cleanup activities on the site since the late 1980s. A deactivation contractor was selected in 2014 and has led efforts for decontamination and decommissioning of the plant facilities.

Begley’s campus presentation is sponsored by the Hanover College Geology Department and the Environmental Stewardship Committee, which reviews Hanover’s procedures and practices that affect sustainability, environmental quality and education for the campus and the larger community.