Armstrong County nuclear cleanup delayed again




The cleanup of a 44-acre nuclear waste dump in Armstrong County is facing another potentially lengthy delay after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday it will re-evaluate proposals to do the work.

The Corps awarded a $350 million contract to Jacobs Field Services North America, of Oak Ridge, Tenn., in April, but agreed to take another look after unsuccessful bidders for the work filed challenges with the federal Government Accounting Office.

The GAO dismissed the protests after the Corps agreed to re-evaluate the proposals.

The property along Route 66 in Parks Township, about 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, was used to dispose of radioactive waste produced in the manufacturing of fuel for commercial nuclear power plants and nuclear-powered submarines during the 1960s and 1970s by then-owner Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. and Atlantic Richfield Co. 

Approximately 36,000 tons of waste material is buried on the property. Cleanup has been repeatedly delayed by a lack of information about what kind and how much waste is buried there, and studies required to produce that information. The Corps had to stop removal of the waste in the spring of 2012 when it discovered greater than expected amounts of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.

Jeff Hawk, a spokesman for the Corps’ Pittsburgh District office, said he does not know how long the re-evaluation of bids will take. The original evaluation took 18 months.

Mr. Hawk was not permitted to reveal which bidder or bidders had challenged the Field Services contract, the basis for the challenge, why the Corps had agreed to the re-evaluation, or how many bidders there were for the project.

Mr. Hawk said the re-evaluation process will look only at the original proposal bids, will not require resubmission of those bids or allow new bids. It will be done by the Pittsburgh and Buffalo district offices along with input from Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The owner of the nuclear waste dump site, BWX Technology, formerly Babcock & Wilcox, and the former owner, Atlantic Richfield, must pay for the cleanup.

When the remediation of radioactive material is completed —- earlier estimates predicted it would take a decade  —- the site still might contain chemical contaminants, Mr. Hawk said.

“The radioactive remediation of the site will meet the criteria of unrestricted use,” he said, “but there may still be chemical contamination on the site that is outside the authority of the Corps to clean up.”

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter @donhopey

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