Waste contract at Savannah River Site could be worth $21B


The federal government is soliciting pitches to manage and clean up nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site, a contract that could be worth $21 billion over years.

The Aiken Standard reported the U.S. Department of Energy published a final request for proposals on Thursday.

The Department of Energy wrote that it wants to complete liquid waste cleanup at the Savannah River Site in 15 years and directs bidders to propose work plans to meet that goal.

The contract could hand off the work of two current contractors including Savannah River Remediation, which is in charge of handling and processing millions of gallons of radioactive waste at the site. A single contractor, officials have said, is in the best interest of the government and will ensure "maximum" reduction in environmental and financial risk.

The future team would be in charge of a breadth of facilities, nuclear ventures and construction sites. Responsibilities include operation of tank farms, where the liquid waste is kept and monitored; the Defense Waste Processing Facility, a plant where sludge is encased in glass to make it safer for long-term storage; the Salt Waste Processing Facility, recently authorized to begin radioactive work; and construction of the Saltstone Disposal Units, gigantic tanks designed to permanently store processed waste.

Parsons Corp. a Virginia company, has been building and is supposed to temporarily operate the Salt Waste Processing Facility, which is designed to process millions of gallons of nuclear waste every year, far more than now. But the contract for that facility is supposed to be folded into the bigger contract.

Some of the Saltstone Disposal Units are yet to be built.

The coronavirus health crisis interfered with the department's timeline for the contract, Savannah River Site manager Michael Budney has said. As a result, Amentum-led Savannah River Remediation was tapped for a contract extension.

"Because of the coronavirus issues," Budney said earlier, "we just weren't able to get through the solicitation process for the replacement contract for that effort."

A previous attempt to bid a liquid waste contract foundered in 2019 after protests, with contractor protests and the U.S. Government Accountability Office declaring the evaluation unfair. That's when the Department of Energy set out the new combined approach.