Companies interested in building custom road equipment to transport tritium-bearing rods to the Savannah River Site from a nuclear reactor in Tennessee got an extra month-and-a-half, until Nov. 9, to file their bids, the prime contractor for the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said Tuesday.
Battelle, which runs the Washington state lab for DOE’s Office of Science, announced the extension late Tuesday in an amendment to a July 31 solicitation for the design, fabrication, and certification of a custom trailer and cask to transport tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBARs).
TPBARs produce tritium when irradiated in a nuclear reactor owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration harvests the fresh tritium at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., to refill tritium reservoirs of existing nuclear weapons at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas.
Battelle did not say why it decided to extend the due date for solicitations. At least one unidentified bidder had asked for more time to respond to the summer solicitation for the fixed-price contract, according to a question-and-answer document on the procurement, also posted Tuesday.
Battelle has not disclosed the list of interested bidders that attended a mandatory pre-proposal conference Aug. 16 in Richland, Wash. According to the July solicitation, the company plans to pick the cheapest technically compliant proposal it receives. The winner will have to provide the transportation cask and trailer by May 2023. The trailer would be used solely for over-the-road transport, the solicitation says.
Currently, DOE produces tritium by irradiating TPBARs in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant reactor Unit 1 in Rhea County, Tenn. The agency wants to use Watts Bar Unit 2 for tritium production as well, but TVA first needs approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Assuming the commission approves the move, Unit 2 could start producing tritium in November 2020, according to Battelle’s TPBAR trailer solicitation.