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Feds seeking proposals for cleanup at LANL

SANTA FE – The federal government on Thursday issued its draft request for proposals for a new contract for environmental cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

It’s the first time there will be competition for a separate cleanup contract. In 2014, the Department of Energy decided to separate environmental remediation of decades worth of radioactive and other hazardous materials from the overall LANL operating contract, held since 2006 by private consortium Los Alamos National Security LLC.

That 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 that continues to this day.

LANS – which includes Bechtel and the University of California – was subsequently granted a “bridge contract” for the cleanup work, but a new long-term contract under DOE’s Office of Environmental Management will likely take effect in October 2017 when the bridge contract, with all options exercised, will expire.

The total estimated value of the new cleanup contract is approximately $1.7 billion over a prospective 10-year period, including option extensions.

“The Draft RFP provides for full and open competition, and the Draft RFP includes requirements for meaningful work to be performed by small business concerns,” DOE said in a news release. The purpose of issuing the draft RFP is “to solicit input from interested parties to assist DOE in developing a Final RFP for this procurement.”

LANS’s overall operating contract has been worth about $2 billion annually. That contract is also expiring, as LANS has failed to earn adequate performance reviews to extend it beyond September 2018. RFPs will be issued at some point for a new contract to take effect after that.

In another LANL development, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted down a budget bill amendment that would have curtailed plans to ramp up production of plutonium nuclear weapons triggers known as “pits” at Los Alamos.

The proposal by Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) was rejected by voice vote, according to a report in the Exchange Monitor, which covers the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. LANL is under a federal mandate to produce 50 to 80 pits a year by 2030.