Originally created 11/15/00

Feds force SRS parent to rebid



The parent company of Savannah River Site's top contractor might not receive a deal to run another U.S. Department of Energy plant after all.

Washington Group International was the lead partner in a venture selected Oct. 12 to operate Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, in New Mexico. But the Energy Department has decided to reconsider its decision.

Washington Group owns Westinghouse Savannah River Co., which operates SRS for the Energy Department. Washington Group's government-services arm is building a $6 million headquarters in downtown Aiken.

The company vied for the WIPP contract as the lead partner in Westinghouse TRU Solutions LLC, a new company formed in concert with Roy F. Weston Inc. The five-year deal is worth from $500 million to $575 million.

The Energy Department decided to reconsider the WIPP selection after Westinghouse TRU Solutions sent a letter to department officials, said Dolline Hatchett, an Energy Department spokeswoman in Washington.

Energy Department officials determined that the letter changed the terms of Westinghouse's proposal, Ms. Hatchett said.

Under those conditions, the agency could not award the contract without seeking revised bids from Westinghouse and its competitor, Day & Zimmermann Inc., she said.

The Energy Department should choose one of the two bidders within two months, Ms. Hatchett said. In a statement, a Washington Group executive said he expected the company to be selected again.

"We're cooperating fully with the Energy Department," said Ambrose Schwallie, president of Washington Group's government-services arm. "We are confident that after all is said and done, we again will be selected as the winner of the contract."

Earlier incarnations of oft-reorganized Westinghouse have operated WIPP since 1985.

The New Mexico plant employs about 650 people. It is designed to dispose of radioactive waste by burying it in underground salt beds more than 250 million years old.

Washington Group also is seeking a renewal of its contract to operate SRS. Westinghouse Savannah River executives said this week that negotiations with the Energy Department are under way, but that no deal has been struck.

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.