SANTA FE – “A new era” began at Los Alamos National Laboratory on Monday when management of the cleanup of legacy nuclear waste at the lab was formally transferred to a new contractor.
N3B won the bid for a $1.39 billion five-year contract – with an additional five years in two optional extensions – last December.
“This significant change for the Laboratory marks the beginning of a new era,” LANL Director Terry Wallace wrote in a Monday morning memo to all LANL employees that was obtained by the Journal.
Wallace praised LANL staff for its exceptional work in executing the Department of Energy Environmental Management program over the past 2½ years. He noted that treatment of the remaining inventory of remediated nitrate salt drums was completed last November and the successful treatment of 27 remaining un-remediated nitrate salt drums concluded in March.
“The results of this hard work and extensive preparation were zero injuries, zero security issues, and zero events that significantly affected workers, the public or the environment,” he wrote.
In 2014, the Department of Energy decided to separate remediation of radioactive and other hazardous material generated by decades of nuclear weapons work from the Los Alamos operating contract. The change came after a drum of radioactive waste packed improperly with a combustible mix at Los Alamos breached at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, resulting in a shutdown of the nuclear storage facility.
N3B is a consortium led by Huntington Ingalls Industries that involves Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos, a part of Los Alamos National Security LLC that has held an operating contract with the lab since 2006. Also partnering on the contract are Tech2 Solutions – a joint venture between Tetra Tech and Sealaska Technical Services – and Longenecker & Associates, which was selected to support quality and contractor assurances, and other functions, according to the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ website.
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a frequent critic of the lab, still has concerns about the transition.
“It’s far (from) being a new era when the swamp just gets deeper,” he said in an email to the Journal.
Coghlan said that more than half of Tetra Tech’s work cleaning up an old naval base in San Francisco was “downright fraudulent” and cost American taxpayers a quarter of a billion dollars to do over. He also said New Mexico’s next governor should throw out the “toothless” consent order governing the cleanup negotiated by Gov. Susana Martinez’s Environment Department.
“When those two things are done, then maybe it will be a new era for cleanup at Los Alamos,” he said.