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Voinovich School receives Department of Energy grant

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University has been awarded a $500,000 Department of Energy grant for a public outreach project.

The grant will fund a community-driven effort to identify alternatives to the end use of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The plant, which produced low-level enriched uranium to fuel nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants around the world, ceased operations in 2001. Currently, the facility is being demolished and decontaminated.

The project includes designing and conducting a widespread community-based discussion of the remediation scenarios and making recommendations for the cleanup and disposition of the site. The public outreach will include gathering information from the community through surveys, focus groups, and attendance at local fairs and festivals. In addition, community visioning teams will work to create scenarios for the site.

"Our role is to be the stewards of the community's vision for the future of this site and to make sure they are represented," said Voinovich School Project Manager Scott Miller.

According to the DOE, the Voinovich School was selected because of its management of the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3), and its track record of building collaborations between the university and other academic institutions in previous
public consensus-building projects throughout Appalachia.

A publicly-approved plan will be presented to the DOE once the project is completed in fall 2011, Miller said.

Michele Morrone, associate professor of Environmental Health Science, will head up the project beginning with a public meeting in Piketon expected later this month.

"This project is an opportunity to ensure that public opinion is systematically incorporated into decisions about the future of the facility," she said.

The project team consists of professional staff and faculty from the Voinovich School and the School of Public Health Sciences and Professions in the College of Health and Human Services. In addition, several students will work in various capacities over the course of the project.