SRS plans fewer job cuts

Special
The Defense Waste Processing Facility at SRS is part of the liquid waste program, which will be managed by a new contractor in 2009.

Savannah River Site can expect a new operating budget, fewer employees and the resolution of a disputed $3.3 billion operating contract during the coming year.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy selected Savannah River Remediation LLC to manage the site's extensive liquid waste program, which includes the disposal of 35 million gallons of Cold War nuclear waste.

A rival bidder, Savannah River Tank Closure LLC, notified the Government Accountability Office on Dec. 22 that it would protest the award, said DOE spokesman Jim Giusti. "It could be early May before that protest is resolved by GAO."

Savannah River Remediation is led by URS Washington Division. Its rival, Savannah River Tank Closure, is led by Parsons Corp. The contract period for the winning group will run from April 1 through March 31, 2015.

Because of the protest, a transition period that would have begun in January to enable Savannah River Remediation to phase into its operations is on hold, and the current contractor -- Washington Savannah River Co. -- will continue to manage the program.

URS spokesman Keith Wood said his company believes the dispute will be resolved in its favor.

"We're disappointed to learn of a protest," he said. "However, we're confident that the GAO will uphold the Department of Energy's decision to award the liquid waste contract to Savannah River Remediation."

The liquid waste contract follows the award in early 2008 of a $4 billion maintenance and operation contract to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC, which trumped a competing bid from Savannah River Alliance, composed of incumbents of Washington Savannah River Co. that had managed the site since 1989.

ALSO PLANNED is the selection of a security contractor. Such a contract is valued at $100 million to $150 million a year. The contract with provider Wackenhut Services Inc. expired Sept. 30 but was extended 15 months to allow new proposals to be evaluated. Wackenhut is vying for the new contract.

Although the site has reduced its work force by thousands in recent years, smaller reductions are scheduled for early this year.

A work-force-restructuring program announced in December will eliminate about 75 employees of Washington Savannah River Co. and 250 from Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

The reductions are expected to be accomplished through voluntary participation. Current employment at the site is about 11,000.

A new operating budget that failed to materialize in 2008 should be completed in 2009, Mr. Giusti said.

"We have a new president, and we're awaiting to see what his priorities are and what his budget programs will be," he said, noting that Congress failed to approve a new budget in 2008.

"If Congress doesn't pass a budget by Oct. 1, they pass a continuing resolution, setting our budget at the 2007-08 level for fiscal 2009," he said. "That continuing resolution will get us through the first part of the year until Congress can act on a new budget."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

ABOUT THE SERIE

This story is the second in a series about what's ahead in the new year.

THURSDAY: Richmond County Schools
TODAY: Savannah River Site
SATURDAY: Traffic
SUNDAY: Thurmond Lake-drought
MONDAY: City government