Like everyone else, the Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractors have turned the page to 2018, which is shaping up to be another year of transition, according to an informal survey of veteran watchers of the DOE nuclear cleanup complex.
Here are a few of the issues to watch:
- A new leader for the $6.5 billion cleanup program. In the opening days of the new year, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate industry consultant Anne M. White to be assistant secretary of energy for environmental management. The office has not had a permanent leader since Monica Regalbuto stepped down as Trump took office a year ago.
- A new DOE EM procurement chief. At the end of 2017, Ralph Holland, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and project management, retired from DOE. Holland, who assumed responsibility for the EM Consolidated Business Center in Cincinnati in August 2015, served in many management roles at the department over the past 22 years. As of press time, DOE has yet to announce a replacement. One source said Thursday that Norbert Doyle is currently acting as EM’s chief point of contact for procurement. This could not be confirmed at press time. Doyle is EM associate deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and project management.
- Bid protests. By March 12, the Government Accountability Office is expected to rule on bid protests brought in connection with DOE’s award in October of a $4.7 billion liquid waste management contract at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. Savannah River EcoManagement, a joint venture comprised of BWXT Technical Services Group, Bechtel National, and Honeywell International, got the job. Separate bid protests were then filed by the two losing teams – an AECOM-CH2M venture and a Fluor-Westinghouse partnership.
- Firms get the urge to merge. In December, Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering completed its acquisition of Denver-based CH2M to create a $15 billion engineering and infrastructure heavyweight. That came on the heels of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin’s buyout of Atkins in July, giving the Canadian firm a significant foothold in the DOE cleanup complex. While a federal judge in June blocked Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists’ merger with rival EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City, WCS remains on the market.
- Hanford milestones. Construction of the Low-Activity Waste Facility at the Hanford Site’s Waste Treatment Plant could be substantially complete this summer. The milestone will be followed by two or more years of extensive testing, a source noted Thursday. WTP must legally begin treating Hanford’s briny, less-radioactive low-level waste by 2023, though construction prime Bechtel National would forfeit millions of dollars in fees if processing does not begin in 2022. Also, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation has nearly completed its demolition of Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant, which has been delayed by a recent spread of radioactive contamination at the project site.
- Increased activity at WIPP. After nearly three years offline following a pair of February 2014 accidents, DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., in April resumed taking shipments of transuranic waste. In 2018, WIPP officials hope to not only increase the rate of waste shipments but also to resume salt mining to create more disposal space underground. WIPP plans significant infrastructure investment to prepare for increased operations, including a new permanent ventilation system.
- Contract updates. CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation’s 10-year, $5.7 billion contract for cleanup of the Central Plateau at the Hanford Site is scheduled to expire in September. The contract involves a number of projects around the Columbia River, along with teardown of the Plutonium Finishing Plant. In December, DOE awarded the $1.39 billion legacy cleanup contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos. The current legacy cleanup business is held by Los Alamos National Security – which consists of Bechtel National, BWXT, AECOM, and the University of California. LANS is also the current lab management and operations contractor, through September of this year.
- PILT policy. The Energy Communities Alliance will be keeping a watchful eye on any potential changes to payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) for localities around DOE sites. These are federal payments to local governments to help offset lost property taxes due to non-taxable federal installations within their boundaries. Proposals have been made in the House and Senate seeking more predictable criteria for such payments.