The Department of Energy is planning to start moving its employees from the government-owned Federal Building to privately owned buildings on Stevens Center Place in north Richland.
DOE has had employees at the Federal Building across Jadwin Avenue from John Dam Plaza since the building opened 50 years ago.
About 250 to 300 employees of the DOE Richland Operations Office and some contracted employees that support them now work in the Federal Building.
In 1998 Congress split DOE’s work at Hanford into two offices, and employees of the second office, the Office of River Protection, are based at a building in the Stevens Center complex.
Richland Operations Office employees were told of the plans at a staff meeting Tuesday morning, and Doug Shoop, the deputy manager of the Richland Operations Office, followed up with a memo later in the day.
He said that the Richland Operations Office would begin relocating its offices to the 2420 Building in the Stevens Center business complex this summer. The building is used for employees of Hanford contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co.
Some Richland Operations Office employees also will relocate to the 2430 Building, which is used by another Hanford contractor, Mission Support Alliance. Some Office of River Protection employees also will move to the 2430 Building to work with Richland Operations Office employees working on new contracts as major contracts for both offices near expiration.
The Richland Operations Office move should improve communications, coordination and collaboration between the two DOE Hanford offices, Shoop said in the memo. It also could improve sharing of resources.
Much of the environmental cleanup work along the Columbia River has been completed and the Richland Operations Office is expected to turn more of its attention to central Hanford cleanup, where the Office of River Protection’s work also is focused.
Co-location of the offices will better support long-term work by both offices in central Hanford, Shoop said.
In some cases, the offices may have people with expertise that is useful to work done by the other office, such as nuclear safety expertise, according to DOE officials.
The offices already have a joint chief financial officer and share some legal, security and infrastructure employees.
Moving the two offices into the same area does not mean the offices are being recombined into a single office, Shoop said.
Because there are two distinct Hanford offices with different environmental cleanup assignments, Congress considers budgets for each Hanford office separately. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and others have argued that because they are separate offices, a budget increase for one office should not be offset with a cut for the other.
Federal legislation that turned work to manage 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in underground tanks and the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste over to the Office of River Protection expires in 2019. However, the legislation has been extended before.
No cost estimates for the move were released Tuesday. However, when DOE considered moving employees out of the Federal Building in 2010 it estimated the cost could be about $3,000 per federal employee, with additional costs for contractors that would need to vacate offices to make way for federal employees. The proposal was dropped then.
Now an employee committee has been formed to help work out the details of the planned move and the schedule, which DOE expects to share with employees soon.
“We are working closely with our federal union,” Shoop said.
Some employees of the Stevens Center buildings the Richland Operations Office plans to use likely would have to move out of their offices. Although details of where they would move were not available Tuesday, it is possible that some could move into the Federal Building.
There also will be space available in the building near Stevens Center now used by DOE contractor Washington Closure Hanford on Fermi Avenue. Its contract expires at the end of September and CH2M Hill is expected to pick up some projects that have not been completed and take over operation of the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, the huge lined landfill in central Hanford.
The Richland Operations Office has been paying for remodeling of the portion of the Federal Building it occupies. Remodeling, currently being done on the fourth floor, has been halted pending the planned move out of the building.