Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 33 No. 43
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Weapons Complex Monitor
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November 10, 2022

Second bid protest of WIPP contract rejected by GAO

By Wayne Barber

The Government Accountability Office on Tuesday rejected a challenge by a Westinghouse-led group to the Department of Energy’s July award of a potentially $3 billion management contract to manage the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

In a statement, the Government Accountability Office said it has denied the bid protest filed by Carlsbad Operations Alliance, LLC, of Hopkins, S.C. Details of the office’s decisions about bid protests usually lag the decision announcement by a few days.

Carlsbad challenged the July award of a contract to the Bechtel National-helmed Tularosa Basin Range Services, LLC, of Reston, Va., by DOE for the disposal of nuclear waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), outside of Carlsbad, N.M. 

“Carlsbad alleged that DOE’s evaluation of key personnel, past performance, and management approaches was unreasonable, challenged the agency’s best-value tradeoff determination, and argued that the agency engaged in improper communications with the awardee concerning an agency-level protest,” according to an emailed statement from Edward Goldstein, managing associate general counsel for procurement law at GAO. 

Here Bechtel, which led the group that ultimately won the contract, filed a protest directly with DOE in July 2021 when bid proposals were due, over certain language in the request for proposals it considered ambiguous, a source familiar with the situation said. The agency subsequently amended the solicitation, and the language Bechtel considered too vague.   

The GAO found Carlsbad’s arguments lacked merit.

“Tularosa Basin Range Services, dba Salado Isolation Mining Contractors, is committed to executing this mission in the safest and most efficient ways possible,” a Bechtel corporate affairs spokesperson said in a Thursday email after the second bid protest was rejected. “We look forward to joining the team at WIPP, meeting our new colleagues, and engaging with our new neighbors in the community.”

The Bechtel affiliate will use Los Alamos Technical Associates as its small business teaming subcontractor, according to DOE. The contract has a 90-day transition period

 Like GAO’s rejection of Huntington-led National TRU Solutions bid protest of the WIPP contract last week, the Carlsbad Operations Alliance decision is issued under a protective order. A public version, with any confidential business data redacted, should be available within a couple of weeks, according to GAO.

WIPP is the only deep-underground disposal site for defense transuranic waste in the U.S. and is currently managed by Nuclear Waste Partnership, a team of Amentum and BWX Technologies.

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