Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) site is located in Paducah, Kentucky. The site is the location of a former uranium enrichment plant owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The plant began supplying enriched uranium for national defense purposes in 1952 and later provided nuclear fuel rods for power plants. Uranium enrichment activities ceased in 2013. Current site missions include environmental cleanup, waste disposition, depleted uranium conversion, deactivation and decommissioning of the former uranium enrichment facilities, and long-term stewardship.

The PGDP is located on about 3500 acres of land. The former plant operations area occupies 750 acres of land that is fenced and secured. The West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area surrounds the site on the north, east and west and includes Bayou Creek and Little Bayou Creek. A coal-fired power plant owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority is also located north of the site. Rural residential and agricultural areas surround the site, the wildlife management area and the power plant.

More than five decades of plant operations resulted in generation of hazardous wastes, radioactive wastes, mixed (hazardous and radioactive) wastes, and other wastes. Releases of these wastes contaminated soil, groundwater, surface water and sediment at the plant and beyond the plant boundary. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the PGDP as a Superfund site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1994.

The DOE, EPA and KDEP entered into a Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) in 1998 for site cleanup activities.  The FFA parties have investigated site conditions and taken incremental steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. By cleaning up and monitoring soils and groundwater, enforcing institutional controls to prevent people from coming into contact with contamination, and undertaking periodic reviews of all cleanup actions (known as Five-Year Reviews), the DOE, EPA and KDEP continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

Since 1988, DOE has taken steps to clean up soil and groundwater contamination. These steps include removing contaminated soils and sediments and treating contaminated groundwater. DOE continues to search for contamination and plans more cleanup activities in the future.

Five Year Reviews

Every five years, cleanup actions at the site are reviewed to ensure that people and environmental resources are protected. The site’s most recent Five-Year Review was reported in 2013. EPA's review identified additional information needed from DOE by March 2016 in order to agree with their conclusions that exposures of people to contaminants from the site are under control: (i) an assessment of shallow groundwater contamination to assess the potential for vapors to migrate from groundwater into homes outside the Plant boundary; (ii) a survey to demonstrate that water wells at residences and businesses located outside the Plant boundary and above the groundwater contamination are not in use; and (iii) an assessment of the potential for  vapors to migrate from groundwater into PGDP buildings where people work. DOE work on the 2013 Five-Year Review was completed in 2018.

The 2018 Fourth Five-Year Review is available

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What Is the Current Site Status?

DOE is the lead agency responsible for cleanup of the PGDP with oversight by EPA and the Commonwealth of Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KDEP).  The 1998 Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) describes how the DOE, EPA and KDEP work together to ensure that the cleanup plan implemented at the PGDP protects people and environmental resources and prepares land for potential future reuse. The Site Management Plan (SMP) is the cleanup plan that is negotiated each year by the three parties. The SMP outlines site cleanup schedules, work priorities and enforceable milestones for the DOE cleanup.

To date, site investigations and environmental cleanup activities have focused on five (5) areas the EPA refers to as operable units, or OUs:

  1. The Groundwater OU includes contaminated groundwater affected by PGDP.
  2. The Surface Water OU includes contaminated surface water bodies, outfall ditches, impoundment ponds, and Big Bayou and Little Bayou Creeks.
  3. The Soils OU includes contaminated soils associated with PGDP that are not located in a waterway, outfall, ditch or burial ground.
  4. The Burial Grounds OU covers more than 100 acres and includes contamination associated with site landfills and burial grounds.
  5. The Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) OU, addresses decontamination, demolition, and disposal of inactive buildings associated with the former uranium enrichment plant.

A series of cleanup decisions (Records of Decision, or RODs) address contamination across the OUs. For example, the 1998 cleanup decision (ROD) focused on cleaning up trichloroethylene-contaminated soil and groundwater within Solid Waste Management Unit 91, part of the Groundwater OU.

The DOE plans to undertake more cleanup actions before transferring clean parcels to new owner. Site investigation and cleanup activities are currently forecast through 2065.  However, long-term cleanup activities will likely go past 2065. Due to the large amount of Superfund-related waste that will be generated from decontamination and decommissioning of plant buildings and other cleanup activities, DOE plans to evaluate disposal options for site wastes, including the potential construction of an on-site waste disposal facility.

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Sampling and Monitoring


Sampling and period monitoring by DOE have identified various contaminants in soil, surface water, sediments, and groundwater on the site and beyond the site boundary. Contaminants of concern include trichloroethylene (TCE), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), technetium-99, uranium, thorium, and transuranic elements (e.g., plutonium and neptunium).  DOE provides public access to PGDP data, including mapping of contaminants.

Chemical Fact Sheets

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Technetium-99, Uranium, Thorium and Plutonium


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

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