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Valley News Dispatch

Army Corps lifts stop-order on $350 million contract for nuclear waste cleanup

Mary Ann Thomas
| Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, 8:06 p.m.
This aerial photo shows the former NUMEC plutonium processing facility along Route 66 in Parks Township as it looked in 1985. The nuclear waste dump is located behind the plant, which has since been torn down.
This aerial photo shows the former NUMEC plutonium processing facility along Route 66 in Parks Township as it looked in 1985. The nuclear waste dump is located behind the plant, which has since been torn down.

Preparations for the cleanup of a nuclear waste burial site in Parks Township can begin again after an almost 18-month delay.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers believe they have addressed issues with a bid protest and lifted a stop-order Tuesday on the $350 million federal contract to clean up the nuclear waste dump.

The bid protest, filed by bidders who didn’t win the contract to clean up the site, set back progress for the long-awaited 10-year cleanup project by a year and a half. The Government Accountability Office and the Corps so far have declined to release the names and details of those contractors.

The Corps will hold a public meeting to update residents on the project from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 14, at the Parks Township Volunteer Fire Department Hall, 1119 Dalmation Drive in Parks Township.

The 44-acre dump, officially known as the Shallow Land Disposal Area (SLDA), is off of Route 66 near Kiskimere Street. It was used in the 1960s by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. to bury radioactive waste materials in shallow pits.

The company, under contracts with the then-Atomic Energy Commission, produced nuclear fuels for Navy submarines, power plants and other, more secret government programs.

BWX Technologies, which currently owns the site, is mandated by federal regulation to pay for at least a portion of the government-ordered cleanup, according to the Corps.

In April of 2017, the Corps awarded a $350 million remediation services contract to Jacobs Field Services North America, Inc., of Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the cleanup of radioactive waste at the dump. That contract was suspended in May last year because of the bid protest but the stop work order was lifted Tuesday.

After re-evaluating the bids, Corps officials said they found Jacobs Field Services to still be the best-suited contractor, said Brian Molloy, Corps project manager.

“Price is not what we are focused on,” he said. “We wanted the most qualified contractor to do the work and it turned out to be Jacobs the first and second time.”

In addition to re-evaluating the bids, the Corps gave the other contractors the opportunity to revise their proposals, Molloy said.

Hyde Park environmental activist Patty Ameno, said: “This is good news that the project is moving forward. We sit back and hope there are no more glitches and delays. Let’s get it up and get it out.”

The dump is scheduled to be readied for excavation and sorting the nuclear materials in mid-2020 with digging expected to begin in 2021.

“We want more than anything to make positive progress and remediate the site,” Molloy said. “We really want to get out there and start moving dirt.”

Molloy cautioned, however, that there could be future delays given the project’s size, scope and complexity.

The Parks Township cleanup is among the three most important in the country for sites with contamination from nuclear weapon production for the Cold War arms race, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the program.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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