Energy extends current Hanford tank contract as next steps loom

Construction work on a waste treatment plant in June 2005 at the Hanford site.

Construction work on a waste treatment plant in June 2005 at the Hanford site. Jeff T. Green via Getty Images News

A third attempt at an award of this multibillion-dollar radioactive waste storage contract is certain, even if the timing and nature is not.

The Energy Department plans to add another two years onto an existing contract for liquid waste management services at the Hanford Site in Washington state after the recompete award was nixed in court.

Washington River Protection Solutions, a joint venture owned by Amentum and Atkins, is poised to continue its work through the end of September 2025 as Energy figures out what to do next with a new contract. Orano is the largest subcontractor to WRPS.

The extension would go into effect on Oct. 1, Energy said in a justification notice posted Wednesday. WRPS started on the current contract in 2008 for an initial 10-year term and multiple extensions including the most recent one extend the work to 17 years.

This is the second time the department has pulled back an award for the underground tank farm management work at Hanford, the former nuclear production complex in eastern Washington state from its initial 1943 standup until the final reactor shut down in 1987.

Hanford was most famously home to plutonium manufacturing in support of the Manhattan Project to build the world's first nuclear weapon.

Underneath the Hanford site, a tank farm holds approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive waste from the plutonium that WRPS is moving into newer tanks for storage until it can be treated. One aspect of the recompete contract involves the management of a waste treatment and immobilization plant built by Bechtel.

In April, Energy awarded a potential $45 billion contract to a joint venture led by BWXT Technologies called Hanford Tank Waste Operations & Closure.

Amentum and Fluor are the H2C venture's other members. In addition to the tank work, the potential 10-year award also involves the start of vitrification plant operations to treat and turn the waste into a stable glass form for disposal by late 2024 or 2025.

But the losing bidder named Hanford Tank Disposition Alliance subsequently went directly to the Court of Federal Claims in May to protest the award. HTDA is owned by Atkins, Jacobs and Westinghouse.

In a four-page ruling unsealed June 30, Judge Marian Blank Horn invalidated the award and agreed with HTDA's claim that H2C was not continuously registered in the System for Award Management that stores information on federal contractors.

Horn ordered Energy to reconsider bids from both HTDA and H2C, the latter of which she found did not renew its SAM registration until late January. Proposals were due earlier in that month.

For its part, H2C also raised issues with how HTDA identified itself in SAM as a U.S. company with its "highest-level owner" being Atkins Nuclear Secured. H2C claimed the correct owner of the venture was Canada-headquartered SNC Lavalin Group, which Atkins is a subsidiary of.

In any event: U.S. government attorneys representing Energy did ask the judge to return the issue to the department so it would work through those issues and any others surrounding the procurement.

Energy also went back to the drawing board in 2020 after its first attempt to award a contract for only the tank farm work. The department initially selected a proposal from Hanford Works Restoration, a team of BWXT and Fluor.

A pair of protests immediately followed, after which Energy decided to take corrective action and later that year cancel that contract entirely. Energy decided to rework the solicitation and expand the procurement to add vitrification plant operations.