The status of a $45-billion environmental management megacontract just awarded to contractors BWXT, Amentum and Fluor Corp. by the U.S. Energy Dept. at the Hanford, Wash., former nuclear weapons site, now is shrouded in mystery when a federal claims court judge invalidated it on June 13, following a losing team's bid protest. 

Judge Marian Blank Horn’s order was redacted, but she has enjoined any work to be performed under the award made in April. 

The other bidding team, which includes Atkins, Jacobs and Westinghouse, protested to the claims court in May the award of the massive 10-year contract. It combines, for the first time, major Hanford missions to manage 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste stored underground, and to operate a giant new plant that will begin to turn the toxics into glass for final disposal.

A DOE spokesperson said he could not comment on the award invalidation or on how the agency will address procurement flaws raised; the affected companies also declined comment.

The Arkins-led team claimed in its award challenge that “numerous material and prejudicial evaluation errors skewed the best value source selection decision in [the BWXT team’s] favor.” 

Bid Details Questioned

The Atkins protest also said the winning team did not appear to be properly registered in a federal database to enable it to bid and win the contract. But according to documents, there also are questions about the Atkins team's registration during the multi-year progress of the disputed and reworked contract.

Regulations require that a bidder be continuously registered from the time of the offer through award and performance. 

The Atkins team changed its bid registration before DOE’s April 13 award to remove the name of its lead firm's Canada-based parent, SNC-Lavalin, as its owner, and substitute that of U.S.-based Atkins Nuclear Secured Holdings Corp. 

The substitution is considered a material change to what was offered to DOE in the bid, and therefore "is no longer one DOE can accept,” the BWXT team said in a court filing on June 5. 

The Atkins protest also raised questions about the winning team's claimed safety record and management strength

Justice Dept. Weighs In

The U.S. Justice Dept. and DOE asked the court to return the award to the energy agency to address case issues.

“The record evidence demonstrates that both the awardee and protestor’s proposals at the very least raise significant issues that the agency should address in the first instance,” Justice said in a June 6 filing.

A spokesman for BWXT did not comment on whether its team would appeal the claims court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. 

The Integrated Tank Disposition Contract is for accelerated cleanup of radioactive and  chemical wastes left behind after decades of nuclear weapons production at Hanford in eastern Washington. Its work scope includes retrieving waste from single-shell underground storage tanks and operating the site's new Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, which will immobilize the stored waste for site disposal. The contract also includes project management functions. 

Washington River Protection Solutions, an Amentum-led company, has managed the waste storage work since 2008. Bechtel National built the estimated $17-billion waste treatment plant and now is commissioning it.