Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 34 No. 20
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Weapons Complex Monitor
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May 19, 2023

DOE to delay transition to BWXT-led tank team at Hanford pending court protest

By Wayne Barber

The Department of Energy will not begin transition to a new BWX Technologies-led contractor at the Hanford Site in Washington state until a legal challenge of the $45-billion liquid-waste contract is resolved in court, according to a May 12 court filing.

The Department of Justice confirmed May 8 that DOE would stay performance of the potentially decade-long Integrated Tank Disposition Contract awarded last month to Hanford Tank Waste Operations & Closure. That’s according to a heavily redacted, 47-page filing by an Atkins-led team that lost the competition for the contract and sued DOE over the award.

As a result of the stay, Hanford Tank Disposition Alliance, the losing contractor team that also includes Jacobs and Westinghouse Government Services, is not seeking a temporary restraining order, according to the filing. In addition to BWXT, the winning team includes Amentum and Fluor.

The stay means current contractor Washington River Protection Solutions, an Amentum-Atkins partnership, could remain on the job for longer than expected. The Federal Claims Court has tentatively set a trial date for the $45-billion bid protest case on Aug. 8. The current Washington River Protection Solutions’ business runs through Sept. 30, according to the latest DOE major contracts update.

The Atkins-led team last week took the unusual step of taking a bid protest directly to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and entirely bypassing the Government Accountability Office, which is the usual starting point for DOE nuclear cleanup contract challenges.

While the Friday filing is highly redacted, not disclosing the first reason the protester claims the DOE decision is in error, the document claims DOE’s Office of Environmental Management made many errors in its evaluation of the two offers.

The Atkins group claimed DOE overrated Hanford Tank Waste Operations & Closure’s team “despite several of its proposed key personnel lacking recent and relevant experience.” The filing also asserts BWXT has had multiple contracts with “widely publicized safety, performance, and security issues.”

For example, the recently concluded Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) prime contract, performed from 2012-2022 by Nuclear Waste Partnership (“NWP”), an Amentum-led entity with partner BWXT, that has “a history of safety failures that should have alarmed DOE evaluators,” the Atkins group said in the filing.

No new public filings have been made since May 12. One document was filed under seal Wednesday.  

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