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LANL operator gets a $65 million clean-up contract extension

Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Journal File)

SANTA FE, N.M. — For the second time, the Department of Energy has extended a “bridge” contract for environmental cleanup work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

That means that private consortium Los Alamos National Security (LANS) will be paid another $65 million for an the additional six months of waste cleanup.

In 2014, the DOE decided to separate remediation of radioactive and other hazardous materials generated by decades of nuclear weapons work from the overall Los Alamos lab operating contract, held since 2006 by LANS.

The move was part of a shake-up that came after a drum of radioactive waste packed improperly with a combustible mix at Los Alamos breached in February 2014 at the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant at Carlsbad, resulting in a shutdown of the nation’s nuclear waste storage facility.

But LANS – which includes Bechtel and the University of California – was subsequently granted a temporary “bridge contract” to continue doing the clean-up work for an interim period. The temporary contract was extended in 2016 for a year, through the end of this month, and now will go for another half year, the DOE announced.

The DOE said the latest extension allows the department to “facilitate the successful accomplishment of the necessary near-term mission critical work scope with the least amount of disruption” and provide more time for its Office of Environmental Management to complete the procurement of a long-term cleanup contract, with a value that’s been estimated in the past at $1.7 billion over a prospective 10-year period, including option extensions.

In May 2016, the Office of Environmental Management issued its draft request for proposals for the new long-term contract. It’s the first time there is competition for a separate cleanup contract.

The overall operating contract to run LANL is also expiring and going out for bid. LANS has failed to earn adequate performance reviews to extend it beyond September 2018.