AIKEN - The Department of Energy wants the private company that runs Savannah River Site, Washington Savannah River Co., to continue managing the nuclear reservation for up to 18 months after its contract ends Jan. 1.
The federal agency announced its intent to extend the contract Wednesday on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, www.fbo.gov.
"This extension is required to provide uninterrupted site support while the competitive procurement is completed," the DOE stated.
The agency will accept public comment on the planned extension through Oct. 21, though it appears almost certain that more time will be needed to complete the bidding process.
The DOE plans to divide its biggest tasks between two contracts, one for the management of liquid nuclear waste and another for just about everything else, including the Savannah River National Laboratory.
The DOE has previously signaled that the bidding process would be delayed, which some observers attribute to the agency's workload. It is negotiating contracts at up to eight sites across the country.
Washington Savannah River Co.'s contract was originally supposed to expire Oct. 1 but was extended through the end of this year to provide more time to prepare the bidding process. The DOE later announced that it wanted the company to manage liquid waste through 2007, with hopes of accepting bids on the other contract sooner.
As late as May, DOE officials said they hoped to start the competition for at least one contract this year.
But so-called "request for proposal" documents that start the process have yet to be released, and companies that have previously bid on DOE contracts say it takes at least a year from that point to finish the process.
This most recent delay won't change the DOE's plans to use a two-contract approach, spokesman Jim Giusti said.
"We still plan to continue with the multiple contracts," he said.
There are several companies that plan to pursue at least one contract, including Parsons, EnergySolutions, Fluor Daniel and Washington Savannah River Co., which intends to pursue both.
"We're confident in our ability to re-win the privilege to operate SRS," E. Preston Rahe Jr., the president of Washington Group International, Washington Savannah River Co.'s parent company, said in a statement.
"We're also eager and ready for the competition to move forward, for the benefit of our employees, the taxpayer and our communities."
Some, including the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken and Edgefield counties, advised the DOE not to divide management responsibilities.
"We believe a single contract could be more efficient to the taxpayer," said Ernie Chaput, an official with the development partnership and former DOE manager at SRS. "It also makes it easier for the community to relate with a single face on the site."
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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