Hanford

Bechtel spins off Hanford vit plant work to new company

Construction is currently halted at the Hanford vitrification plant’s Pretreatment Facility until technical issues related to high level radioactive waste are resolved.
Construction is currently halted at the Hanford vitrification plant’s Pretreatment Facility until technical issues related to high level radioactive waste are resolved. Bechtel National

A new company with familiar faces will be conducting work at the Hanford vitrification plant.

The Department of Energy contractor for the Hanford vitrification plant project and its primary subcontractor created a subcontracting company for construction, start up and commissioning of the new plant.

Bechtel National, DOE’s prime contractor, and its subcontractor AECOM formed Waste Treatment Completion Co.

About 1,370 of the approximately 3,000 workers on the vit plant project will be shifted to Waste Treatment Completion, said Peggy McCullough, Bechtel project director for the vitrification plant, in a message to employees Thursday.

Bechtel remains the prime contractor for the plant with responsibility for delivering a plant to DOE. The plant is being built to turn up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste left from plutonium production for nuclear weapons into a stable glass form for disposal.

The new company was formed after plans for starting up the plant altered.

When ground was broken for the plant in 2002, plans called for constructing the plant as parts of it were designed. It would not be started up until after all construction was completed.

Forming WTCC also better supports fulfilling our contract requirement to provide a trained workforce and supporting management systems that can be turned over to a future operating contractor.

Peggy McCullough, Bechtel project director

But after technical issues related to high level radioactive waste to be treated at the plant were raised in 2012, construction on parts of the plant were temporarily stopped. Current court-enforced deadlines require all parts of the plant to be operating together in 2036.

DOE’s goal is to start processing low activity radioactive waste at the plant as early as 2022, while construction work resumes and continues on other parts of the plant.

Having a single subcontractor, Waste Treatment Completion, for the on site work of construction and commissioning is intended to safely manage job site activities. All employees, whether from Bechtel or AECOM, will follow the same policies and procedures under the new company.

“Forming WTCC also better supports fulfilling our contract requirement to provide a trained workforce and supporting management systems that can be turned over to a future operating contractor,” McCullough said.

A contractor to operate the plant has not been selected, but the new company will work with radioactive waste as the plant is commissioned.

All union construction workers will become employees of Waste Treatment Completion on March 27, with no change in benefits. Bechtel and AECOM non-construction workers and managers doing jobs related to construction and commissioning will initially be loaned to the new company and gradually transferred.

Other workers doing jobs related to engineering and purchasing of goods and services will continue to work for Bechtel National.

BNI (Bechtel National) remains the prime contractor for the (vitrification plant) project with total accountability.

Peggy McCullough, Bechtel project director

DOE approved the plan to form Waste Treatment Completion during recent Bechtel contract modifications related to the new plan to start up parts of the plant while construction continues elsewhere at the plant.

Scott Oxenford, a Bechtel employee who served as the manager of organizational effectiveness for the vitrification plant in recent years, has been named the president and general manager of Waste Treatment Completion.

A board of managers from Bechtel National and AECOM will provide oversight of the new company.

The establishment of a new company “is a fundamental shift” in the vitrification plant project, McCullough said in her message to employees.

The change sets the project on a path toward completion of the Low Activity Waste Facility and other vit plant facilities needed to glassify low activity radioactive waste, she said. It also creates a foundation for success of the two facilities at the plant that will handle high level radioactive waste, the High Level Waste Facility and the Pretreatment Facility, she said.

When the Bechtel contract was modified to cover the new plan for a phased start up of the vitrification plant, a new cost estimate was released.

The phased start up and related work are expected to cost an additional $4.5 billion, DOE said in December. The previous verified cost estimate for the vitrification plant released in 2006 was $12.3 billion. Cost increases also are expected as technical issues related to high level radioactive waste are resolved.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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