The Department of Energy’s $45-billion liquid waste contract awarded in April for the Hanford Site in Washington state “was improper and is set aside,” a federal judge said in a public one-page document Tuesday.
“Performance of the contract is enjoined,” U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn said of the Integrated Tanks Contract awarded by DOE to BWX Technologies-led Hanford Tank Waste Operations & Closure. The team also includes Amentum and Fluor.
Parties have 60 days to contest the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the judge wrote.
The lawsuit was brought in May by a losing bidder for the work, Hanford Tank Disposition Alliance, a team of Atkins Nuclear, Jacobs and Westinghouse.
The Department of Justice, which represented the federal government in the case, last week filed written arguments urging the claims court to send the dispute back to DOE to fix problems both bidders had with their corporate registration in the federal government’s System for Award Management.
The BWXT-led Hanford Tank Waste Operations & Closure let its registration in the federal procurement system lapse for months, according to Justice. Likewise, plaintiff Hanford Tank Disposition Alliance at one point failed to disclose Atkins’ ultimate owner is SNC-Lavalin, based in Montreal, Canada.
The plaintiff took the unusual step of taking its bid protest directly to federal claims court rather than first going through the usual proceedings at the Government Accountability Office.
Spokespeople for DOE ,BWXT and Atkins declined to comment Tuesday.
But one thing for certain is that two months after the contract award, and 18 months after the final request for proposals, DOE remains without a new long-term contractor to manage tank wastes and eventually run the vitrification plant to convert radioactive waste into glass.
For now, management of underground waste tanks at Hanford will continue to be done by the current provider, Washington River Protection Solutions. The incumbent, an Amentum-Atkins team, has been on the job since October 2008 on a contract valued at $10 billion. The deal was set to expire at the end of September.
The court’s move is a big blow to BWXT as this is the third time in four years it has led a team that initially won and subsequently lost a major DOE liquid waste contract.
In February 2019, DOE canceled the Savannah River Site award, although another BWXT-led team would eventually win the business in 2021. Just before Christmas 2020, the agency canceled the Hanford tank closure contract, awarded to a BWXT-led team, saying it wanted to restructure the contract.
Conversations with a trio of industry sources on Thursday indicated DOE could go in various directions from here.
It could, after a period of review, award the contract to one of the existing bidders, the sources said. It could restart the whole process, or, it could split up the mega contract — seeking one provider to manage the tanks and a second for operation of the Bechtel-built Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.