The U.S. Department of Energy continued its search for a contractor to oversee operations at the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and management of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant – an underground nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad.
The CBFO released a request for information (RFI) in August 2019 soliciting information from potentially qualified companies for its Carlsbad Technical Assistance Contract (CTAC) and published a request for proposal (RFP) on Oct. 29 to seek bids for the work.
The new contract would be for a five-year term with an estimated maximum value of $100 million, and would replace the current CTAC held by Northwind Portage, which will expire in Dec. 3, 2020.
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That contract was valued at about $46 million.
The DOE expects to extend that contract by six months if needed, read a DOE news release.
The contract’s objectives include technical assistance for quality assurance, project management, engineering and technical reviews and assessments.
Its awardee would also be tasked with oversight of capital assets projects, nuclear safety, business and administrative operations, environmental compliance, industrial hygiene and safety.
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The contractor would also oversee operations at the WIPP site.
Proposals were due by Dec. 14.
Ahead of the due date, the DOE plans to hold a virtual site tour and conference during the week of Nov. 9. Interested parties will be allowed to submit questions online.
Here are the main aspects of the DOE’s request for proposal and what is looking for in a new contractor.
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What tasks is the DOE requesting?
The CBFO’s main purpose is to lead operations at the WIPP site and the national defense-related transuranic (TRU) waste disposal program.
Transuranic waste consists of objects such as clothing material or equipment contaminated during nuclear activities.
The waste is generated at DOE facilities across the country and shipped to WIPP for permanent disposal in an underground salt deposit about 2,000 feet beneath the surface.
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The CBFO’s contractor will be tasked with the oversight of the TRU waste program, characterization of the waste and preparation for shipment at generator sites.
The office also serves as an international center for the study of radioactive waste using the unique capabilities of the WIPP facility.
The selected contractor will also support the CBFO Office of the Manager, executive management, administrative offices and the international repository science program.
The CBFO also works to ensure all WIPP documents and activities are compliant with federal law.
Most CTAC operations will take place at the Skeen Whitlock building in Carlsbad, but workers could also be assigned to tasks at the WIPP site, the RFP read.
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What DOE facilities will the contractor oversee?
A selected contractor would also be required to provide audit and assessment activities throughout the DOE’s National Transuranic Waste Program in New Mexico.
This includes the management and operation contractor at WIPP – currently Nuclear Waste Partnership and parent company Amentum, along with Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories-Carlsbad, the TRU waste transportation contractors and the CBFO itself along with other participants in the Field Office’s programs.
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What ongoing major projects will the contractor oversee?
Major ongoing projects at the site to be overseen by the CBFO are a rebuild of the facility’s ventilation system known as the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) and a utility shaft to be used for the mining of future panels to hold waste.
The SSCVS was designed to increase airflow in the underground after an accidental radiological release in 2014 left areas of the mine contaminated with radiation.
Currently, the underground receives 170,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) and the SSCVS was expected to increase airflow to 540,000 cfm.
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The utility shaft was also planned to increase access to the underground as new areas are mined for waste emplacement.
WIPP’s current permit with the New Mexico Environment Department expires in 2024, and a new permit is under review that would extend the lifespan of WIPP indefinitely and could lead to additional panels mined for waste disposal.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: WIPP: DOE getting closer to new contractor for WIPP operations oversight