Contract awarded to manage LANL contamination

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A new consortium of two Virginia companies has been awarded a contract worth up to $1.4 billion to monitor contaminated water systems, clean up soiled lands and ship radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The U.S. Energy Department awarded the contract this week to Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos LLC. It was formed by BWXT and Stoller Newport News Nuclear.

BWXT is part of Los Alamos National Security LLC, a consortium that has been managing Los Alamos National Laboratory since 2006. The Department of Energy is in the process of selecting a new manager for the lab.

Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos LLC will take over the environmental program in March. The contract calls for a five-year base period, followed by possible three- and two-year renewals.

In a news release, the Department of Energy said the new consortium will focus on cleaning up contaminated waste sites; decontaminating and demolishing contaminated buildings; and packaging and shipping mixed, low-level and transuranic radioactive waste to disposal facilities. Transuranic waste includes soil, gloves and tools contaminated by plutonium and other highly radioactive elements.

Monitoring and protecting the Los Alamos regional aquifer also will be an objective of the new consortium. A plume of hexavalent chromium in the aquifer has been an issue at the laboratory for a decade.

Steven Horak, a spokesman for the Department of Energy's environmental management field office at Los Alamos, said in an email: "DOE will work closely with both the incumbent cleanup contractor Los Alamos National Security and the new legacy cleanup contractor to ensure a safe, smooth transition of this important work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory."

The department said the new consortium was selected from three proposals.

Stoller Newport News Nuclear is a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries and is known as being the nation's largest military shipbuilding company.

The company's website states that it has been "a solution provider to the nuclear and commercial power industries for the past 50 years," with services in radiological remediation and soil and groundwater evaluation.

BWXT says it is the leading supplier of nuclear materials and fuel to the U.S. government. It cites weapons fabrication, supercomputing and nuclear surveillance among its accomplishments at Los Alamos. Its environmental cleanup work has been in partnership with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project in Idaho, and at gaseous diffusion plants in Ohio and Kentucky, among others.

The management of legacy waste -- radioactive waste generated prior to 1999 as part of the Cold War -- was separated into an independent field office by the Department of Energy in 2015. The action came a year after a waste drum packed at Los Alamos burst inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, resulting in a costly accident that led to a release of radiation, worker contamination and the plant's shutdown for nearly three years.

In part because of that accident, the Department of Energy said it would not renew Los Alamos National Security's contract to manage the lab. Originally, federal officials said the lab would be under new management in September 2017 and a separate contractor would handle environmental cleanup.

The rest of the lab is expected to come under separate management in September.

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.c­om.

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