A $100 million contract was awarded for technical support at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) for work related to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear repository near Carlsbad.
Navarro Research and Engineering, based in Oak Ridge, Tennessee received the contract for the next five years.
Navarro replaces North Wind Portage which holds the current Carlsbad Technical Assistance Contract (CTAC) that expires on Aug. 31.
More:WIPP takes in 100th shipment from Tennessee facility since 2014 incident
The company, a small business, provides environmental remediation and technical services to multiple federal agencies including the DOE, Department of Defense and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) format of the contract will allow for task orders to have a fixed prices and timelines, intended to ensure projects are completed on schedule and on budget.
The contractor will support WIPP waste acceptance, chemical compatibility, audits and assessments, nuclear and industrial safety and scientific and international programs along with transuranic (TRU) waste characterization and transportation and other business operations.
More:What’s going on at WIPP? Construction projects ongoing at nuclear waste facility
At WIPP, transuranic nuclear waste – clothing materials and equipment irradiated during nuclear activities – from DOE sites and national laboratories across the country is buried for permanent disposal in an underground salt deposit about 2,000 feet beneath the surface where the salt gradually collapses and entombs the waste.
Navarro held the CTAC contract at WIPP previously and President and Chief Executive Officer Susana Navarro said she hoped the company would again be an important part of WIPP operations and the local community.
“Navarro is very excited to have been selected by DOE for the CTAC contract and we look forward to providing outstanding technical support to the DOE Carlsbad Field Office,” she said. “Navarro successfully managed the CTAC contract ten years ago as an active member of the community and we are very excited to return.”
More:New contract sought to move nuclear waste to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad
Contractor will provide support for major projects at WIPP
The new CTAC comes at a time of heavy infrastructure work both on the surface and in the WIPP underground.
The DOE and primary operations contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership are in the midst of a complete rebuild of WIPP’s ventilation system known as the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS).
The SSCVS will increase airflow in the underground from about 170,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) to 540,000 cfm, allowing more waste emplacement and mining operations to occur simultaneously.
More:WIPP: Nuclear waste shipments from Washington delayed 20 years by 2014 release
A new utility shaft was also planned to increase access to the underground as new areas are mined for waste emplacement, and the DOE is awaiting approvals from the New Mexico Environment Department to build and operate the shaft.
WIPP’s current permit with the New Mexico Environment Department expires in December 2020 and initially estimated WIPP would operate until 2024.
A new permit is under review that would extend the lifespan of WIPP indefinitely and could lead to additional panels mined for waste disposal.
More:Utility shaft at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant debated during first day of State hearings
Search for new WIPP contractor began in 2019
The DOE first sent out a request for information for the CTAC contract in August 2019, seeking information for potentially qualified contractors, followed by a request for proposal in October of last year.
The contract was valued at about $46 million but was capped at $100 million, and the DOE expected to extend in by six months as needed.
During the search process, the DOE conducted site tours with prospective bidders as the CBFO’s main responsibility is to lead operations at WIPP and the national TRU waste disposal program.
More:WIPP: Electric vehicles coming to nuclear waste repository, intended to improve airflow
The office also serves as an international center for the study of radioactive waste using the unique capabilities of the WIPP facility.
Most CTAC operations will take place at the Skeen Whitlock building in Carlsbad, but workers could also be assigned to tasks at the WIPP site, the RFP read.
The contractor would also be required to provide audit and assessment activities throughout the DOE’s National Transuranic Waste Program in New Mexico.
This includes the management and operation contractor at WIPP – currently Nuclear Waste Partnership and parent company Amentum, along with Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories-Carlsbad, the TRU waste transportation contractors and the CBFO itself along with other participants in the Field Office’s programs.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.