Speakers say DOE will continue to be good source for jobs

Department of Energy work should continue to be a good source of jobs and subcontracts for small businesses, according to speakers at the Tri-City Development Council’s Regional Economic Outlook conference Wednesday in Pasco.

The amount of money Hanford could receive from the federal economic stimulus package being considered by Congress remains unknown, but DOE’s Hanford Richland Operations Office is preparing for the possibility of a large increase in funding for three years, said Manager Dave Brockman.

The Senate is considering $6.4 billion and the House is considering $500 million in additional money for cleanup of Hanford and other nuclear weapons sites.

DOE will decide how to spend the economic stimulus money, but Brockman said that Hanford has contracts and procedures in place for work that could be done.

Plans without the possible economic stimulus package funds added call for employment to remain steady at about 4,400 workers on Hanford Richland Operations Office projects through 2013, he said.

That number does not include subcontractor employees, but spending with small businesses should increase this year, he said.

In fiscal 2008, contractors working for the Richland Operations Office spent $327 million on subcontracts, including $209.4 million that went to small businesses. The total subcontracted is projected to increase to $429.9 million, including $306.5 million to small businesses, in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The Richland Operations Office oversees cleanup work along the Columbia River and work in central Hanford, other than at the tank farms and the vitrification plant. That work is overseen by the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection.

Without considering possible economic stimulus money, the Office of River Protection expects contractor staffing to remain stable this year, increasing slightly from 4,512 in fiscal 2008 to 4,539. Staffing is projected to drop slightly to 4,359 next year. That includes a decrease of 320 workers at Bechtel National, which is designing and building the vitrification plant, but an increase in workers at the tank farms.

Less money will be spent on subcontracts and services at the tank farms this year. In fiscal 2008, $93.2 million was spent on subcontracts and services, and this year $82.7 million is expected to be spent.

The vitrification plant is 47 percent complete, said JD Dowell, the assistant manager for engineering and nuclear safety at the Office of River Protection. Construction of the plant is 40 percent complete and design is 76 percent complete.

Since work began on the vitrification plant, $2.21 billion has been spent on subcontracts and services, Dowell said. About $1 billion had been spent at Washington and Oregon businesses, including $705 million spent at Hanford-area businesses.

The third DOE office in Richland, the Pacific Northwest Site Office, expects Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to increase its staff by about 200 workers in the next five or six years, said Julie Erickson, acting manager. PNNL has about 4,000 workers now. However, the lab will be hiring many more workers as it replaces those who retire, she said.