aWe shouldn't have been surprised to learn recently that a lack of common sense by a federal agency is hurting a local company.
RHI Monofrax of Jamestown is the only approved producer of the materials used to clean nuclear waste worldwide and has a $75 million contract with the federal government to produce the materials. While that contract is a boon to the local economy, it comes with strings. The federal Department of Energy only orders small amounts of the product each year. While it doesn't take Monofrax long to fill the order, the process to clean the kiln is time consuming and expensive. Without knowing when an order may be coming, it makes no sense to clean the kiln to make it ready for other work.
The current system has the Department of Energy ordering a small amount in one month, then waiting until it needs another small amount before it places an order. Such small, irregular ordering effectively takes 20 percent of Monofrax's production capacity away for weeks or months at a time. To make matters worse, Monofrax officials have 25 years to deal with this maddening system.
Monofrax officials are simply asking to be allowed to make enough of the cleanup material at one time that it can send the whole order to the Department of Energy, which can then use the material as needed. Of course, such a common sense solution can't happen easily. No, we had to get Sen. Charles Schumer involved. It's wonderful that Schumer is willing to take time to help a local company, but should that be necessary? Should a senator in the middle of complex discussions in Washington, D.C., really have to be involved for something this simple to be resolved?
Of course not.
It should be relatively simple for the Department of Energy to figure out how much of the nuclear cleanup material is needed, have RHI Monofrax make that amount of material and then allow Monofrax to clean its kiln and begin making other things for the rest of the year.
Working on a normal schedule can't be that hard, can it?