In a move that some observers did not expect, the U.S. Energy Dept. on Oct. 12 declined to award a $4.7-billion follow-on contract for liquid-nuclear-waste management at its Savannah River nuclear-waste complex in South Carolina to a team led by incumbent AECOM and unit URS Corp.

The up-to-10-year cost-plus contract was won by a BWX Technologies-led team that includes Bechtel National. Both now are members of the incumbent team, but they competed separately for the rebid, along with Honeywell International.

URS, which won the current $3.3- billion contract in 2008, was acquired by AECOM in 2014.

That contract, set to expire on June 30, was extended until Dec. 31. The new contract is for seven years, with a three-year extension option. Following a three-month transition, the expected new team would run site radioactive liquid-waste operations and the new Salt Waste Processing Facility, which is set to go on line in December 2018.

DOE did not disclose names of the non-successful bidders, but industry publication Weapon Complex Monitor said AECOM bid the follow-on contract with current subcontractor CH2M; a Fluor Corp.-Westinghouse team was the third bidder. Fluor now holds Savannah River’s management-and-operations contract, which includes tritium production.

“We believe AECOM (and partners) had expected to continue work under new contract terms,” said Andrew J. Wittmann, senior research analyst at Baird Equity Research, in an Oct. 12 note, adding that a bid protest by the firm “is likely.”

An AECOM spokesman on Oct. 16 said, “We are carefully reviewing all … options going forward.” He said the team debriefing was set for the week of Oct. 23. Fluor did not respond by ENR’s press time on its bid response.

Wittmann said major DOE contract awards “have faced political backlash in recent years, prompting some ‘horse-trading’ among contracts between the limited number of qualified contractors.”

He said large contracts at DOE’s Hanford waste site in Washington state and at its Los Alamos, N.M., research site are set to be rebid next year.