A team led by URS Corp.’s Washington division, the former Boise-based contractor Washington Group International, is now the “preferred bidder” for one of the biggest environmental contracts of the year. It is expected to be awarded a contract to clean up, decommission and redevelop the U.K.’s Sellafield nuclear site in northwest England, a project that may cost $2.6 billion annually for up to 17 years and be worth at least $100 million in fees. The competition drew major players in global nuclear waste cleanup and technology.
Sellafield, representing 60% of the U.K.’s civil nuclear legacy, presents contractor with complex challenges.
The URS-led team was chosen on July 11 by the U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to move into contract negotiations, which the agency expects to complete in October. The team, called Nuclear Management Partners Ltd., also includes AMEC plc and French nuclear technology firm AREVA.
The winning team bested bids from CH2MHill Nuclear Services Ltd.; Fluor Ltd., teamed with Japan’s Toshiba Corp., and a Bechtel-led team that included Serco and Babcock & Wilcox. A team headed by Utah-based EnergySolutions Inc. submitted a proposal but left the competition two months ago, sources say.
Sellafield is the U.K.’s primary nuclear power and reprocessing facility. It was first a nuclear weapons factory dating to World War II, with power generation beginning in 1956 and plutonium processing a year later. Representing 60% of the U.K.’s civil nuclear legacy, Sellafield is where “the most complex challenges we face exist,” says Ian Roxburgh, CEO of site owner NDA.
URS officials point to the history of its Washington unit in the U.S. nuclear-waste cleanup market, primarily at former U.S. Dept. of Energy weapons sites. “We will have all the same challenges we have at any nuclear facility,” says Bob Pedde, chief of the URS-led consortium. As former president of the Washington Savannah River Co., he led nuclear decommissioning work at DOE’s Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. He left that site 16 months ago to focus on the Sellafield proposal, he says.
NDA used the “competitive dialogue” form of negotiation to procure the Sellafield contract, an approach also used to hire a program manager for construction of all facilities and infrastructure for the 2012 London Olympics. That contract was won in 2006 by CH2M Hill.
“This is one of the most exacting bidding and information-exchange efforts we have gone through,” says Tom Zarges, president of the Washington division. Industry sources say the team’s plan to spur area economic growth with new plutonium-reprocessing facilities was a key factor in its win.
Later this year, NDA will transfer ownership of the site license company, Sellafield Ltd., to the consortium, along with an estimated 10,000-person union workforce. The role of incumbent senior staff will be discussed after the transfer. Sellafield contains over 200 facilities crammed into a 4-sq-kilometer site. Commercial fuel reprocessing and storage will continue on parts of the site until 2016, reports NDA.