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GA Tech to Buy Kerr-McGee's Uranium Plant

November 21, 1987|CHRIS KRAUL | San Diego County Business Editor

SAN DIEGO — GA Technologies of La Jolla has signed an agreement in principle to buy an Oklahoma uranium-processing operation from Kerr-McGee, a major Oklahoma-based energy company. The price was not disclosed.

The plant, Sequoyah Fuels Corp., in Gore, Okla., was the site of an accident in January, 1986, involving a burst cylinder of uranium hexafluoride that sent a cloud of toxic gas into the atmosphere. One employee was killed, and 30 were hospitalized. More than 100 nearby residents are plaintiffs in six pending lawsuits in connection with the accident.

GA Technologies, a closely held nuclear power contracting and research company, would be shielded from all liability stemming from the lawsuits if the Sequoyah purchase is completed, Kerr-McGee spokesman Rick Pereles said Friday. GA Technologies officials were not available for comment.

GA Technologies was acquired in 1986 from Chevron Corp. by Denver businessman Neal Blue and his brother, Linden Blue, for more than $50 million.

Kerr-McGee's sale of the plant is consistent with the company's decision, announced last spring, to "concentrate its capital and investment in its core businesses of oil and gas exploration and production," Pereles said. Kerr-McGee is based in Oklahoma City.

Although the bulk of Kerr-McGee's $2.5-billion revenue last year was generated by oil and gas sales, the company is perhaps more closely identified by most Americans with nuclear fuel because of the controversy surrounding the death of Kerr-McGee employee Karen Silkwood in 1974.

Silkwood, who died in an auto accident after being exposed to high levels of radiation at Kerr-McGee's Cimarron plant, was the subject of a 1983 motion picture starring Meryl Streep.

Kerr-McGee reported a $292-million loss last year, due in large part to $530 million in writedowns of assets related to its oil and gas operations. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the company reported a $66.3-million profit on nearly $2 billion in sales.

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