Huge Hanford clean-up contract

02 June 2008

Washington Group, Energy Solutions and Areva will undertake a $7.1 billion contract to manage radioactive waste from the USA's nuclear weapons program.


The work involves operating tanks of liquid radioactive and chemical waste at the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Hanford site in Washington state. The site has been in use since 1943: First as part of the Manhattan Project that created the world's first nuclear weapons, then as a nine-reactor plutonium production complex throughout the Cold War period. There was also some research into peaceful uses of nuclear energy.


Hanford tank 

A single-shell tank at Hanford.
Some 177
 of these must ultimately be

decommissioned (Image: DoE)

One result of this program of work has been almost 241 million litres of liquid radioactive and chemical waste. This is stored in 177 large underground tanks in 18 groupings, or 'farms' which the DoE describes as "ageing". Energy Solutions CEO Steve Creamer said "This clean-up project is vital to the protection of the Columbia River and to the health and safety of the residents of the state of Washington."


The scope of the contract includes the base operations of the tanks, analytical laboratory support, the retrieval of waste from single-shell tanks to be closed, support for the Waste Treatment Plant as well as some supplemental treatment. The DoE said the contract covers a five-year base period and includes options to extend for a further five years. Over those ten years, the contract is worth approximately $7.1 billion on a "cost-plus award-fee basis," the DoE said.


Washington Group and Energy Solutions formed a new company, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) bid for the work. It will employ Areva Federal Services as a major cubcontractor. Areva said the contract was of "significant importance" to it and that it would provide experienced personnel and liquid waste vitrification know-how.


WRPS is to assume responsibility for the tanks on 1 October.


Two other major contracts are forthcoming in the clean-up of Hanford. One covers waste and facility disposition, the other covers overall support.

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