Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 34 No. 27
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July 06, 2023

Fight over $45B Hanford tank contract could end up back in federal court

By Wayne Barber

Although a fight over a $45-billion contract to manage liquid waste at the Hanford Site in Washington state was remanded to the Department of Energy, it could end up back before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, according to a recently-released judge’s order.

Judge Marian Blank Horn last month set aside the Hanford Integrated Tank Disposition Contract awarded in April to BWX Technologies (BWXT)-led Hanford Tank Waste Operations and Closure, sending the matter back to DOE for reconsideration.

But a copy of the judge’s four-page order initially issued under seal on June 12 and made public last Friday, June 30, shows Horn anticipates the fight over the lucrative government contract could end up back in her courtroom.

If either protestor Atkins-led Hanford Tank Disposition Alliance or the joint venture made up of BWXT, Amentum and Fluor disagree with DOE’s ultimate “reconsideration of how to proceed, or wish to challenge a subsequent award,” they can come back to before Horn in Federal Claims Court, the judge wrote.

Judge Horn indicated she would not need to start from scratch “given the consideration already given by this court to the issues raised in the above captioned bid protest complaint.”

Horn has held the award to the BWXT-led group, possibly the biggest-ever issued by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, “was improper and the award is set aside.” The judge told DOE to reconsider the two proposals in light of problems with each teams’ registration with the government’s System for Award Management (SAM.gov).

The BWXT-Amentum-Fluor team let its registration lapse in the middle of the procurement and did not renew it until late January, after its amended contract offer was submitted to DOE.

Even the U.S. Department of Justice, which typically defends government contract decisions, said in a filing the BWXT-team “was not registered at all required times, its offer was not responsive to the solicitation.”

For its part, the BWXT-led group said its Atkins-led rival filed incorrect paperwork saying its ultimate parent was no longer a foreign-owned corporation, Montreal, Canada-based SNC-Lavalin. Other members of the Atkins-led team are Jacobs and Westinghouse.

Atkins and its partners took the unusual step in May of filing a contract challenge directly to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, rather than starting with the Government Accountability Office, the usual first stop for bid protests.

At stake is what team will manage Hanford’s 177 underground radioactive waste tanks, emptying them and eventually solidifying the waste using the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant being built by Bechtel. Amentum-led Washing River Protection Solutions has the current tank contract under a deal valued at $10 billion, which started in October 2018 and is scheduled to expire in September. The Waste Treatment Plant is not currently expected to start converting low-level radioactive tank waste into glass until 2025.

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