Next Up For Furloughs: NW Nuclear Plant Workers

By Tom Bacon

Thousands of nuclear plant workers in Idaho and Washington are in limbo today, waiting to find out if the furlough ax will fall on them unless lawmakers can finally agree on a new budgetary plan.

If the government shutdown continues this week, about 26-hundred employees of the Battelle Energy Alliance which runs the Idaho National Laboratory will be laid off. Another 1,100 people working for a long-term cleanup project at the Idaho nuclear site will be furloughed beginning the 21st of this month.
An Idaho Department of Labor official said about a quarter of eastern Idaho's entire workforce is employed at the INL.

The impact will hit far fewer workers at Washington's Department of Energy nuclear lab in Richland called the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, but at least 35 workers there have been put on unpaid leave, and without a solution to Congress's budget impasse, more will be laid off.

The Pacific Northwest lab is running now with funds left over from the last budget which ended October 1st. Battelle Energy officials have told employees in Idaho that they can use personal leave time they may have built up to offset the loss of paychecks, but neither Battelle employees nor those involved in the cleanup work will be eligible for back pay.

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson who represents the eastern part of the state said he could support a short term spending resolution, perhaps two weeks, but that idea was shot down in acrimonious congressional disarray at the end of last week.
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