A Hanford tank farm contractor will receive 88 percent of the incentive pay possible for fiscal 2015, according to the Department of Energy.
The pay of $13.7 million out of a possible $15.6 million is in addition to the performance pay that Washington River Protection Solutions earned for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. It earned 100 percent of $14.4 million available for completion or progress on specific projects, such as emptying waste from leak-prone single shell tanks and evaporating liquid waste to create more space in double-shell tanks.
The $13.7 million award is for subjective ratings by DOE about how well its contractor managed work, kept costs down and maintained safety, among other goals.
“We appreciate the Department of Energy’s recognition of our strong fiscal year 2015 performance,” said Mark Lindholm, Washington River Protection Solutions president.
Its performance was rated better than in fiscal 2014. Then it received 83 percent of the incentive award available, or $10.5 million out of a possible $12.6 million.
Rated “excellent” for management of tank system and nuclear safety
In fiscal 2015, the contractor “exceeded many of the significant award fee criteria and has met overall cost, schedule and technical performance requirements,” DOE said.
Washington River Protection Solutions was rated in eight areas, receiving an overall rating at the top of the range considered “very good.” It received ratings of very good in all categories, except two that were rated as “excellent.” They were management of the tank system, worth up to $2.7 million, and nuclear safety, worth up to $1.2 million.
The largest portion of the possible award, $4.5 million, was available for cost performance, with the contractor ranked in the “very good” range. DOE released only a one-page fee determination scorecard on the pay award, which did not include the amount awarded for each category.
DOE listed three key areas for improvement on the score card, all of which were ongoing issues identified before fiscal 2015. There were “challenges with work integration, command and control of nuclear operations, and ongoing equipment failures,” the scorecard said.
Safety issues reportedly have involved procedures to make sure electrical service is locked off before work proceeds on equipment. No injuries resulted in fiscal 2015.
Rated “very good” for conduct of operations, cost performance, quality assurance and safety program
The contractor also has struggled with equipment performance in the harsh environment within underground tanks holding a mix of hazardous chemical and high-level radioactive waste. The custom equipment has to withstand high heat, radiation and chemical corrosion, sometimes throughout heavy use.
A year ago work had stopped with the Mobile Arm Retrieval System, or MARS, the contractor’s largest and most robust system for retrieving waste from underground tanks because progress was so slow using a vacuum attachment.
Although MARS was restarted, work with the system has stopped again because hoses failed because of heavy use.
DOE said the key successes for the year were the contractor’s leadership in taking over responsibilities for the Effluent Treatment Facility and implementing recommendations from an independent study to better protect workers from chemical vapors. DOE also praised efforts to integrate work among the tank farms, the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and other national labs conducting research on tank waste treatment.
The Effluent Treatment Facility and related waste water facilities were transferred from CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. to Washington River Protection Solutions because they will be needed when treatment of tank waste starts. The tank farm contractor also plans to use it to support some tank farm work.
Moving forward, we are actively addressing our opportunities for improvement, as well as vapors issues and equipment reliability.
Mark Lindholm, WRPS president
The independent study coordinated by Savannah River National Laboratory resulted in a phased plan to better protect workers from vapors with better monitoring, new technologies and investigations of long-term health effects.
“Moving forward, we are actively addressing our opportunities for improvement, as well as vapors issues and equipment reliability,” Lindholm said. “We’re committed to improving our performance in fiscal 2016.”
Successes in fiscal 2015 included completing the retrieval of waste from a 14th leak-prone single-shell tank in Hanford’s C Tank Farm, he said.
Washington River Protection Solutions restarted the Hanford evaporation plant after upgrades were completed to create more space in 27 double-shell tanks being used to hold waste emptied from leak-prone single-shell tank. Four evaporation campaigns have freed up space for almost 2 million gallons of waste.
Work has started to prepare the AX and A Farm tanks for waste retrieval when the remaining two tanks at the C Tank Farm are emptied. Preparations also were under way to start emptying Tank AY-102, a double-shell tank with a leak between its shells, within two months.
The contractor finished conceptual designs for a new project, the Low-Activity Waste Pretreatment Facility, which is proposed to pretreat some waste to allow the Hanford vitrification plant to start glassifying some waste for disposal while technical issues delay operation of parts of the plant handling high-level radioactive waste.