The Department of Energy awarded its tank farm contractor at Hanford $9.6 million for fiscal 2016, or 77 percent of the almost $12.5 million incentive award possible based on a subjective rating system.
The overall rating was “very good,” indicating a score of 76 to 90 out of a possible 100 for all eight categories considered.
The previous year, Washington River Protection Solutions received 88 percent of the incentive award possible under the rating system.
“WRPS performed adequately through a turbulent year, but there were times when substantial (DOE) guidance and involvement were needed,” said DOE on a scorecard summarizing performance.
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WRPS is responsible for 56 million gallons of radioactive and nonradioactive hazardous chemical waste held in underground tanks until it can be treated for disposal at the vitrification plant.
In the area of vapors, communications were not adequate to proactively sustain trust throughout the workforce.
The contractor received two ratings of “excellent” in individual categories, scoring at least 91 out of 100, for its nuclear safety work and for its support to prepare for waste treatment at the vitrification plant, including a new plan for treatment of low-activity radioactive waste as early as 2022.
Nuclear safety is related to the radioactive portion of the tank waste, but not the hazardous chemical waste that resulted in dozens of worker reports of possible chemical vapor exposure in the fiscal year that ended in September.
WRPS mostly received individual category ratings of “very good,” including for conduct of operations, cost and management performance, quality assurance, environmental regulatory management and safety program implementation.
Its lowest score was a “good,” which falls in the range of 51 to 75, for management of the single- and double-shell tank system.
DOE made public only a one-page scorecard on the pay award, which did not specifically address management of the tank systems.
It said on the scorecard that communications on chemical vapors were not adequate to sustain trust throughout the work force.
“In addition, WRPS’ communication to the workforce did not adequately cover past evaluations and decisions related to vapors and potential engineering controls or other solutions,” according to the scorecard. “This resulted in undue tension and frustration within the workforce.”
WRPS met or exceeded most of the award-fee performance criteria.
The scorecard said positives for the year for WRPS included meeting or exceeding most of the award-pay performance criteria. WRPS also met the overall cost, schedule and technical performance requirements of its contract, if the impact of litigation and vapors issues are excluded.
WRPS and DOE are being sued in federal court by the state of Washington, Hanford Challenge and union Local 598 for better chemical vapor protection for workers. WRPS has spent $50 million on improvements, including a current pilot test of equipment to better detect, identify and track chemical vapors.
The scorecard praised WRPS for delivering a significant level of work in the last fiscal year, averaging $49 million of work a month, plus some notable specific achievements.
The contractor processed more than 4 million gallons of waste water after taking over operation and restarting the Effluent Treatment Facility.
WRPS also made progress to empty waste from double-shell Tank AY-102, which has waste leaking between its shells, according to the scorecard. No waste is known to have escaped the outer shell.
WRPS retrieved most of the waste held in the tank using a standard sluicing system and then installed four extended-reach sluicing systems for current work to finish emptying the tank.