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Draft request for $21.5B Savannah River Site management contract unveiled by DOE

SRS Sign, Management Draft RFP

An entrance to the Savannah River Site near New Ellenton. (Colin Demarest/Staff)

The next contract to manage the Savannah River Site nuclear reservation south of Aiken could last a decade and be worth $21.5 billion at full term.

The Department of Energy on Wednesday published a draft request for proposals for the massive management-and-operations contract, which includes a breadth of environmental cleanup, national defense and maintenance work.

Those interested have until May 28 to comment.

Draft requests for proposals are an early step in the Energy Department’s contracting process; they are published to solicit feedback and, ostensibly, shape the final requests. Draft requests also offer early glimpses at what future contractors will be tasked with – the big-money projects they handle, the facilities under their control, key personnel requirements and the anticipated exchanges with communities.

In this case, the next Savannah River Site management team will have a full plate. The operations contract presented Wednesday is a familiar medley of nuclear materials management, nuclear weapons work and general upkeep.

The future management team will be in charge of, among other things, H-Canyon, a one-of-a-kind hardened separations plant; K-Area, where a cache of plutonium is kept and handled; and L-Area, a spent nuclear fuel storehouse.

For the National Nuclear Security Administration, the team will spearhead the tritium program, packaging a radioactive hydrogen isotope used in nukes, and manage the proposed plutonium pit factory, the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility. The NNSA on Wednesday announced its go-ahead for a pit production project in New Mexico; a decision for South Carolina is expected soon.

The prospective management contract does not incorporate the liquid-waste programs, including the up-and-running Salt Waste Processing Facility and the tank farms, where millions of gallons of radioactive waste are kept, and the paramilitary security job. The former is handled by Savannah River Remediation and will be tied into the much-anticipated Integrated Mission Completion Contract. The Savannah River National Laboratory is getting its own management team – Battelle Savannah River Alliance, whose transition is already underway – and will be separate, as well.

The current Savannah River Site management-and-operations firm is Savannah River Nuclear Solutions. The Fluor-led team has been on the job for more than a decade.

SRNS’s contract expires Sept. 30. A single one-year extension remains, affording the Energy Department time to work through its sometimes arduous and often arcane acquisition process.

A final request for proposals is expected this summer.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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