FALCONER - Seventy-four laid-off RHI Monofrax employees will return to work by the first week of June, thanks to a $1.5 million order from the Department of Energy and a spike in business.
The DOE order, secured by Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, is instrumental in helping Monofrax continue its 70-year presence in Chautauqua County.
Daryl Clendenen, Monofrax president, announced Wednesday that those laid off, including 26 in March, will return to work because of the contract, which was announced in Monday's edition of The Post-Journal.
RHI Monofrax announced Wednesday that 74 employees currently laid off will return to work by the first week of June.
P-J photo by Katie Atkins
P-J photo by Katie Atkins
"Congressman Reed was obviously really wonderful in all the work he did with the DOE," Clendenen said. "Business had gotten soft, and since then, the market has picked up quite a bit. We're confident that those people we laid off will certainly be back to work."
The Falconer company provides specialty glass used to line furnaces, refractory sets and containers used by the government to encase radioactive material at cleanup sites.
"It is absolutely terrific news that Monofrax is bringing back their workforce," said County Executive Vince Horrigan. "It's been a difficult period of time, and we're very thankful for the additional business. To keep people working in Chautauqua County is job one, and we look forward to strong business growth."
Horrigan, Reed and other state and county representatives have been heavily involved in efforts to secure contracts for Monofrax.
"We want to be as sensitive as possible to care for the needs of our district's businesses," Reed said. "When that means stepping up to the plate to facilitate conversations and press for action, we'll be there to help however we can."
Reed met with Monofrax management, and local and regional union leaders at the Falconer plant earlier this year to get a better sense of the company's business model and map out an action plan for the plant's long-term viability.
"What we do is a very capital-intensive process," Clendenen said, adding that Monofrax is the last fuse-cast plant in all of North and South America.
Furthermore, Monofrax is the only government-approved plant producing materials for vitrification of radioactive material in the United States.
The vitrification process involves combining nuclear material with glass at extremely high temperatures. The mixture is encased in containers made by Monofrax.
Much of the nuclear sludge is a product of the Cold War era, and is contained in underground tanks.
The DOE manages three nuclear sites, one in West Valley; the Hanford Site in Washington, and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which is where Monofrax products will be sent after the DOE contract is complete.
Clendenen expressed concern for the Hanford Site.
"They have 56 million gallons of nuclear waste underground, and have yet to vitrify any of it," he said. "These tanks that were only designed to last 20 years have been in the ground for 40 or 50 years and radioactive sludge is leaking into the ground, threatening the Columbia River. It's a huge issue."
Clendenen hopes the DOE will reach out for more contracts in the future, and said he had been in contact with state representatives in Washington about the Hanford Site.