The Government Accountability Office is backing AECOM‘s fight for the Liquid Waste contract at Savannah River Site. 

The Liquid Waste Mission at Savannah River Site is one of the Department of Energy‘s biggest contracts. So it’s vital that the DOE get the right people on the project. 

“The Liquid Waste Mission at Savannah River Site is the most complex and it has been said that it is the biggest hazard in the state of South Carolina,” said Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness Executive Director James Marra. 

Marra knows the Liquid Waste Mission at Savannah Rivers Site very well, having worked at the National Laboratory for 27 years. 

Savannah River Remediation (SRR) has overseen the mission since 2009. SRR takes the by-product of nuclear weapons material production, turns it into a stable forms and then properly disposes it. SRR’s contract is set to expire on May 31, 2018. 

Savannah River EcoManagement (SRE), Savannah River Technology and Remediation (SRTR) and Flour Westinghouse Liquid Waste Services submitted proposals to the Department of Energy for the mission to process 36 million gallons of highly radioactive nuclear waste and close some of the 44 underground storage tanks at the site.

Savannah River Remediation (SRR) has closed 6 of 8 total tanks closed at the site. 

Savannah River EcoManagement (SRE) is compromised of BWXT Technical Services Group, Bechtel National and Honeywell International. 

Savannah River Technology and Remediation (SRTR) is lead by AECOM and includes partners CH2M Hill, owned by Jacobs Engineering and the Atkins Company. 

WJBF NewsChannel 6 has learned it took the companies nearly 2 years to gather all the elements for the bids. 

In a decision that surprised many, including Marra, the DOE awarded the contract to Savannah River EcoManagement.

“Both losing teams protested,” Marra told WJBF NewsChannel 6. 

These are a breakdown of the bids submitted by each company: 

  • Savannah River EcoManagement (SRE) $4.7 billion dollars 
  • Flour Westinghouse Liquid Waste Services $5.5 billion dollars 
  • Savannah River Technology and Remediation (SRTR) $5.9 billion dollars 

Both losing bidders, SRTR and Flour Westinghouse, took their concerns to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claiming the DOE “misevaluated proposals and made an unreasonable source selection decision.” 

“The GAO looked into that and they upheld the protest from AECOM (SRTR).” Marra said. 

The Accountability Office ruled in favor of Savannah River Technology and Remediation, lead by AECOM, arguing the DOE was aware of Savannah River EcoManagement’s submission that included a “never-before-tried technical approach.” However, it did not totally dismiss the technical approach. 

“In order to treat the waste and to do it in a timely, efficient and costly effective manner companies need to be innovative,” said Marra. 

While the DOE weighs its options, the Accountability Office has offered some recommendations. 

We recommend that, at a minimum, the agency reevaluate proposals in a manner consistent with this decision and make a new source selection decision based on that reevaluation. In the alternative, the agency may conclude that it is in the agency’s interest to engage in further discussions with SRE in order to clarify its proposal. In that circumstance, we recommend that the agency engage in discussions with all offerors; solicit, obtain, and evaluate revised proposals; and make a new source selection decision. Finally, we recommend that the agency reimburse SRTR the costs associated with filing and pursuing its protest, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. 

Marra says at this point in the game no one knows what the Department of Energy’s next step will be. 

“This is a very complex mission out at the Savannah River Site and it’s worth billions of dollars,” Marra told WJBF NewsChannel 6. “So I think it’s in every body’s interest, including us taxpayers, that they do a through job and select the most appropriate contractor.” 

WJBF NewsChannel 6 reached out the Department of Energy for a timeline about when a decision could be made, we received this response:

The Department does not comment on active procurement issues.

The current contract with SRR expires on May 31, 2018. 

Click here to read the full Government Accountability Office review. 

Count on us to bring you the latest on this developing story.