The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, January 03, 2004

DOE to seek next Paducah cleanup bids
The approach will focus on actual cleanup, as Sen. Bunning says he wants to see significant progress in the next three years.

By Joe Walker jwalker@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

The Department of Energy has targeted Jan. 15 to begin seeking bids for a $90 million annual contract employing about 500 people over the next five years to continue cleaning up the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

A synopsis was posted Wednesday at ohio.doe.gov. Bids will be solicited from small businesses to replace Bechtel Jacobs and various subcontractors in July. No deadline was set to receive bids or award a contract.

Bidding follows the announcement last July that environmental work would be divided into two contracts each at Paducah and the closed companion plant in Piketon, Ohio. One contract is for cleanup and another for infrastructure work at DOE-controlled areas of the plants.

In 1998, DOE replaced a fee-based business structure with a system that split work into competitive subcontracts geared to cut costs. As a result, Bechtel Jacobs beat four other bidders to replace Lockheed Martin, which had done the work for 14 years.

DOE is now trying still another approach to focus on actual cleanup, rather than administrative costs. In each of the past two years, Congress has allocated $100 million or more for cleanup at Paducah, but lawmakers have repeatedly criticized DOE for too much red tape.

The most recent criticism came last month from Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate. "We want every penny we give you to be spent cleaning up the mess out there, and you'd better be darn sure you’re not spending it on things like litigation and fines," Bunning told DOE senior managers at a hearing in Paducah. "We want to see significant progress over the next three years."

Since cleanup began in 1988, DOE has spent $823 million at the Paducah plant, of which $298 million, or 36 percent, has been used on waste and contamination removal, the General Accounting Office says. The study also found that $372 million has been used for administrative costs, such as security, general maintenance, litigation and construction, and $153 million to study the extent of contamination and determine how it should be removed.

Bunning also challenged the lagging cleanup schedule. DOE signed an agreement in 2000 saying major work would be completed by 2010 and cost $1.3 billion. Last summer, the agency entered into a new regulatory pact pushing the date back to 2019 at an added cost of $2 billion.

Bidding for a five-year, $25 million annual infrastructure contract is scheduled to end Jan. 28. The contract will be awarded by May 20, and the winning firm will start work Aug. 29. Because of less need for working capital, more local firms are expected to bid on infrastructure than cleanup, a contract more than 3 times larger.

Labor union leaders from Paducah and Piketon will meet Thursday and Friday in Lexington with infrastructure bidders to talk about what the union — backed by the Kentucky congressional delegation — calls serious gaps in bid-request language. The problems threaten the ability of laid-off plant production workers to get cleanup jobs while maintaining government pension and service credit, the union says.

Solicitation language has not been posted for cleanup work. The synopsis says DOE intends to award the contracts "without discussion."