A team led by BWX Technologies Inc. has won a protested U.S. Energy Dept. megacontract at its Hanford former nuclear weapons site in Washington state that now combines major missions, which had been in separate contracts, to manage 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste stored there and to operate a new plant that will begin to turn the material into glass for final disposal.

The award, worth up to $45 billion over 10 years, went to Hanford Tank Waste Operations and Closure, a Lynchburg, Va., limited liability company that also includes units of Fluor Corp. and Amentum. Subcontractors to the team are DBD Inc., DSS Sustainable Solutions USA Inc., INTERA Inc., and Longenecker & Associates.

The winning team will operate the waste vitrification plant under construction since 2002, and now being commissioned by Bechtel National. It also will manage the storage of low-level radioactive and chemical wastes in 177 aging underground tanks and transfer to the estimated $17-billion treatment facility at the 560-sq-mile site. That work had been managed by Washington River Protection Solutions, an Amentum-led company, with a 120-day transition period starting immediately. 

Tank operations now are set to include single shell tank waste remediation and closure, and design, construction and operation of waste receiving facilities and pretreatment capabilities.  

Vitrification plant startup originally was set for late this year but was delayed until late next year or 2025 due to the pandemic and operating issues that arose as Bechtel began testing in 2022 of one of its giant waste melters.   

DOE did not disclose names of bidders for the expanded contract, but there was one other competing team led by Atkins, a unit of Canada-base SNC Lavalin, and including Jacobs, Bechtel and Westinghouse, according to an industry source with knowledge of procurement details. He told ENR that the teams "were essentially tied in scoring," but DOE likely chose the BWXT team based on “best value.” 

The federal agency in December 2020 cancelled a $13-billion, 10-year contract awarded to a team led by BWXT Technical Services and Fluor Federal Services to manage the underground waste storage complex following bid protests by losing competitiors Jacobs and Amentum. 

Amentum, Fluor and Atkins also are key contractors for cleanup missions in other areas of the Hanford site.  

The previous contract “no longer represents the most beneficial acquisition strategy for the Hanford mission,” an agency spokesman told ENR at the time. DOE said the government's "best interest" would be "to have a single contractor focused on integrated completion of the inter-related tank closure and direct feed low activity waste missions at Hanford.”

The new contract is an “end state” closure award, under which specific tasks will be negotiated for completion. Under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity procurement approach, DOE negotiates specific tasks to be completed under either incentive fee or fixed-price awards.

DOE did not respond to an ENR query as to how the combined contract expanded in value from an originally proposed $26 billion in early 2021 to its current ceiling, or how the new total splits between tank farm operation and plant operation. 

Bechtel will continue construction, startup and commissioning of the vitrification plant, with the new contractor taking over once commissioning is complete. 

When work returned to a normal schedule in 2022, the agency asked a federal court overseeing a Hanford cleanup consent decree to officially modify its milestones, granting the actual startup of low-level waste treatment a delay of 579 days, Ryan Miller, a spokesman for the Washington Dept. of Ecology told ENR. The August 2025 date reportedly has been moved up to 2024, he said. 

Also under current negotiation are milestones for remediating high-level wastes at the site. Construction of treatment processes for that waste stream stalled several years ago due to problematic process technology.

The waste is a legacy of plutonium production beginning in World War II at Hanford and ending in the 1980s for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.