Nuclear Cleanup Team for Hanford's River Corridor Chosen

WASHINGTON, DC, March 25, 2005 (ENS) – A new contract has been awarded for cleanup and remediation of radioactive contamination along the Columbia River Corridor on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington. The contract calls for cleaning up and taking down hundreds of obsolete facilities, remediating nuclear waste sites and burial grounds and placing deactivated plutonium production reactors into stable condition at the Department of Energy (DOE) facility.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Wednesday that Washington Closure, LLC, a new limited liability corporation, has been selected to do this work. The five member team includes the Washington Group International Inc., Bechtel National Inc., CH2M Hill Inc., Eberline Services Inc., and Integrated Logistics Services Inc.

The Washington Closure team is expected to be at work at the end of June after a 90 day ramp up period. But several components of the new team are the same as those of the group that has been in place since 1994.

The current holder of the Environmental Restoration Contract (ERC) is Bechtel Hanford Inc. and its preselected subcontractors - CH2M Hill Hanford Inc. and Eberline Services Hanford Inc.

The Columbia River Corridor encompasses 210 square miles along the outer edge of the 586 square mile Hanford Nuclear Site. The contract does not cover Hanford's central plateau where 177 underground storage tanks containing more than 50 million gallons of high-level liquid waste are located.


An obsolete building at Hanford is demolished. (Photo courtesy DOE Hanford)
Work will include projects in Hanford’s 100 Area, where nine plutonium production reactors created material for nuclear weapons; the 300 Area, where uranium fuel was fabricated and laboratory facilities are located; facilities in the 400 Area, except the Fast Flux Test Facility; and two complex and highly radioactive burial grounds in the 600 Area.

In November 2004, Washington voters approved Initiative 297, mandating cleanup of the massive contamination at Hanford, considered the most polluted site in the Western Hemisphere by the environmental groups that campaigned for passage of the measure.

Congress has given states the legal authority to stop the DOE from adding more waste where ground water already is contaminated and hazardous wastes are not stored in compliance with applicable laws. This is the authority that I-297 utilizes. Nevada, New Mexico and other states have made use of this authority to stop additional dumping at contaminated sites in their states.

Betty Means served as the campaign manager for Yes On I-297. She wrote in 2004, "The initiative requires that Hanford be cleaned up before any new waste is brought to the site. In the process, it protects the cleanup from budget cuts of nearly $1 billion between next year and 2011 - cuts already approved by the Department of Energy and the federal Office of Management and Budget. It will stop efforts to leave waste in the soil or at the bottom of leaking tanks."

The DOE said in a statement Thursday, "We will prioritize demolition of facilities based on the hazard they present to workers, the public and the environment."

From 1943 to 1987 Hanford produced plutonium for nuclear weapons, using nuclear reactors built along the Columbia river. Since the production of plutonium ceased, Hanford’s only mission has been cleanup.

The DOE's Richland Operations Offices has set goals for the River Corridor Closure project. By December 31, 2005, the DOE wants the contractor to move all spent nuclear fuel into safe storage on Hanford’s Central Plateau.

In addition, the contractor is tasked with remediation of 436 waste disposal sites, and the cocooning of five of eight nuclear reactors.

The contractor will have to deactivate the 300 Area’s two radiological laboratories and demolish at least 30 percent of the buildings in the 300 Area.

And the contractor must establish "a scientifically-sound, comprehensive strategy" to control 100 Area groundwater contamination sources.

The goal of these activities is to clean up and make available for other uses 65 percent of the Hanford Site.

“Awarding this important and high-profile contract is a major step forward in the Hanford cleanup,” Bodman said. “It will get us the best of what both large and small businesses have to offer – experience, innovation, and performance – to ensure we meet our commitment of safe, protective cleanup of this key area within the Hanford Site.”


This map of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington shows the areas covered by the Columbia River Corridor contract. (Map courtesy DOE)
The “cost-plus-incentive-fee” contract is valued at approximately $1.9 billion over seven years, a savings of $2 billion to $3 billion over prior Hanford Site cleanup estimates.

For every dollar the work comes in under Washington Closure’s “target cost,” the company will receive $.20 in additional fee; for every dollar in increased expense, it will lose $.20 in fee.

There are also enforceable contractual requirements for small business participation. Sixty percent of the work must be subcontracted – with 50 percent of that subcontracted work going to small business. A minimum of three of every 10 contract dollars will flow to small business.

The goal is to clean up this area of the Hanford Site by 2015, with incentives for Washington Closure to accelerate completion to 2012. Regulatory cleanup agreements will be met and Bodman said that early cleanup priorities will focus on those projects that pose the greatest risk to the environment.

“Three qualified teams with the capability to perform this project each submitted a proposal,” said Paul Golan, principal deputy assistant secretary for environmental management. The Washington Closure proposal was "an obvious best value" he said.

Earlier this week the DOE announced another nuclear cleanup contract to be completed by 2012, this one for the Idaho National Laboratory, where many tons of highly radioactive waste are situated. Read the full ENS report by clicking here.