The Associated Press
The industrial conglomerate Honeywell on Tuesday announced plans to reopen its uranium conversion facility in southern Illinois.
The multinational company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina says it plans to restart production of uranium hexafluoride in Metropolis in 2023. Honeywell says it will hire 160 full-time employees and contractors by the end of next year.
The 60-year-old plant was idled in 2018 due to a collapse in demand for uranium hexafluoride, a component of fuel used in commercial nuclear power reactors. Known as “hex” in the industry, it is a compound used in uranium enrichment to raise it to fuel-worthy levels.
Nuclear power accounts for about 20 percent of the U.S. electricity generation resource mix. Few new plants have been built and numerous closed in recent years, but the drive to lower carbon emissions and maintain baseload power capacity is leading some energy experts to reconsider the place of reactors in power generation.
Mayor William McDaniel says Metropolis, a city of about 6,500 located on the banks of the Ohio River, got a shot in the arm with Honeywell’s announcement.
“I’m excited for our community and the region. Anything good for Metropolis is good for anyplace within driving distance to Metropolis,” McDaniel told The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale.
Honeywell spokesman Mike Hockey said the process of preparing the site for its restart will begin immediately with the hiring of workers to ready the plant for full production. The positions to be filled will be equally split between salaried and union-represented workers, as well as contractors.