In a few months 6,000 Hanford workers could have new bosses

The first major award of Hanford contracts in about a decade is on schedule for late July and August, according to Hanford’s top leader.

“We’re actively in the source selection process now for all of the major contracts at the site other than Bechtel,” said Brian Vance, the Department of Energy Hanford manager at a recent meeting of the Hanford Advisory Board in Richland.

Bechtel has an open-ended contract to build and commission the $17 billion vitrification plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation, but the other main DOE contracts at Hanford are typically awarded for decade-long periods.

Together the three contracts, which are planned to cover 10 years of work, are valued at an estimated $21 billion to $33 billion, according to DOE.

Vance said he expected the new tank farm contract to be awarded in late July or early August and the new site services contract to be awarded in August.

He did not specify a time for the award of the new central Hanford cleanup contract, but said all three contracts would be awarded in late July or August.

Capture Hanford tanks map.PNG
Hanford covers 580 square miles in eastern Washington state. Courtesy Department of Energy

DOE contracts out the environmental cleanup work at Hanford, which is contaminated from plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.

New contractors bring in their own management team, but workers typically transfer from companies with expiring contracts to the companies winning the new contracts.

The work to be covered by the three new contracts now employ almost 6,000, not counting some subcontractor employees.

The three current contracts, which have all been extended for six months to a year, will expire between Sept. 30 and Nov. 25.

Contracts could mean Tri-City changes

The Tri-Cities could see some changes as contracts turn over.

Contractors typically are key contributors to charitable projects during the years the contract owners spend in the Tri-Cities.

Projects in recent years have ranged from supporting science and math education in the Tri-Cities to expanding access for hiking on the hills in the Tri-Cities.

Contractors also are required to subcontract out work to small businesses.

hammer 3
Trainees put on protective clothing and breathing equipment at the HAMMER training center, managed by Mission Support Alliance at Hanford. File Tri-City Herald

Although there is no requirement that the small businesses be local, Tri-City-area companies share in the work.

The local spending can help grow businesses to stabilize the local economy, which relies in part on more than $3 billion annually in federal spending for Hanford cleanup and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy lab in Richland.

“We’d like to see small businesses have an opportunity to do meaningful work that contributes to Hanford cleanup while also growing their capabilities for non-Hanford work,” said David Reeploeg, vice president for federal programs at the Tri-City Development Council. “Ideally, we continue developing a pool of sustainable local companies that don’t rely entirely on federal funding.”

Work that may be subcontracted to small businesses can range from staff augmentation, in which their employees go to work on Hanford projects led by other companies, to more substantive projects, such as developing technology for Hanford contractors.

failed pump A!-106.jpg
Washington River Protection Solutions workers replace a failed pump in an underground radioactive waste storage tank. Courtesy Department of Energy

TRIDEC also would like to see companies that win key contracts bring other work in the Tri-Cities.

“A lot of the companies that support DOE cleanup also do commercial work or work for other federal agencies, and we encourage them to look for other ways to capitalize on our local assets and grow their presence here in the Tri-Cities,” Reeploeg said.

The Tri-Cities has assets that are attractive to prospective companies, including a highly skilled workforce with expertise in the engineering, science, energy and nuclear fields, he said.

It also has available land and affordable power.

The expiring contracts include the ones held by:

  • Mission Support Alliance — owned by Leidos and Centerra Group — which provides services across the site, including security, information technology, utilities, road maintenance and firefighting. It expires in September.
  • Washington River Protection Solutions, which manages 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in underground tanks expires in September. The company is owned by AECOM and Atkins.
  • CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., a Jacobs Engineering company, which covers environmental cleanup of central Hanford and groundwater cleanup. It expires in September.

Hanford in eastern Washington state is contaminated with radioactive and hazardous chemical waste from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.