More than 100 workers across the Carolinas to lose jobs as SC fuel plant closes

The mixed oxide fuel factory has been under construction at the Savannah River Site for years.
The mixed oxide fuel factory has been under construction at the Savannah River Site for years.

Orano, a company that provides technical support for the U.S. Department of Energy, is laying off over 100 workers across the Carolinas who provide engineering services for an Aiken, S.C., nuclear fuel facility that is shutting down.

In a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice filed with the North Carolina Commerce Department last week, Orano said that 15 jobs are being cut in Charlotte by Jan. 7. In South Carolina, 114 workers at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County will lose their jobs Jan. 7, according to a recent WARN filed with the state. Affected job functions range from software engineers to consultants, according to both states.

Employees are being laid off because of an expiring contract with the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, which was being built to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium by turning it into fuel.

In October, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that had halted the U.S. Department of Energy’s effort to quit building the MOX fuel factory after a decade of construction, The State reported. The project, criticized for being dangerous and billions of dollars over budget, was originally expected to create up to 2,000 jobs, according to The State.

“As directed by the Department of Energy to terminate the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility project, we are proceeding with WARN notices to affected Orano Federal Services (OFS) team members,” Orano said in a statement to the Observer. “Unfortunately, this notification includes the employees in our Charlotte office that provided (MOX) project engineering services.”

Orano said that its Charlotte office continues to work on multiple projects for the Department of Energy.

“Although the entire (MOX) plant is expected to close within the next year, these are expected to be the only affected employees at this stage,” wrote the company, which provides technical support for clean-up services, including deactiviation, decontamination and demolition of nuclear facilities, according to its Bloomberg profile.

Orano’s federal services business, formerly called Areva Federal Services, is a subsidiary of the French nuclear company Areva, which opened its North American headquarters in Charlotte in fall 2013. The company relocated its headquarters from Maryland, but has had a presence in Charlotte since 2002, according to Observer archives.

As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.