The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

DOE gives another extension on cleanup firm at Paducah

By Joe Walker

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The U.S. Department of Energy has again extended the nuclear cleanup contract of Bechtel Jacobs while the General Accounting Office tries to resolve bid protests that cast doubt on who will succeed the firm.

Bechtel Jacobs received notice Friday that its contract has been extended another three months, through August. Company spokesman Greg Cook said no explanation was given.

"They could implement transition at any time they're prepared to do that," he said. "The fact that the contract has been extended doesn't necessarily mean we would be doing a full scope of work in August."

On Jan. 10, after an 18-month delay, the Energy Department awarded a $303 million environmental contract to North Wind Paducah Cleanup Co. to work at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant through Sept. 30, 2009. Similarly, a $141 million contract was awarded to another cleanup firm to replace Bechtel Jacobs at a closed uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio.

Other bidders have filed a total of 11 protests, each with a maximum 100-day review period. Three have been dismissed.

During a visit to Washington last month, local economic development leaders told new Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman they were concerned about continued delays that could potentially hurt federal cleanup funding. Bodman responded that he has ordered an internal review of the procurement process that has dragged on more than a year at Paducah.

Ken Wheeler, chairman of the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council, said Friday that he was not surprised at another contract extension because the Energy Department had indicated it might take until the end of May to resolve the protests.

"I surely would hope this would be the last extension," he said.

Bechtel Jacobs employs 160 people and oversees another 390 subcontract workers. North Wind pledged to hire most of those workers.

To replace Bechtel Jacobs, the Energy Department asked smaller businesses to bid for separate contracts for plant cleanup and infrastructure work.

Swift & Staley, a subsidiary of Paducah's H&G Construction, recently was awarded a $39.9 million, five-year infrastructure contract. That changeover also would be clouded if there are bid protests.