The Department of Energy and its prime contractor for the two main U.S. civilian nuclear-weapons production sites agreed in early October to end a contractual dispute before it escalated to court, according to a recently published decision.

According to a notice dated Oct. 6 and published subsequently, attorneys for the Bechtel National-led Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) and DoE dropped a dispute before the Civilian Board of Contractor Appeals (CBCA). 

The board is where federal contractors and the government argue business disputes. Any party involved can appeal the board’s decisions to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. 

CNS’ Washington-beltway-area attorneys and DoE’s Albuquerque, N.M.-based lawyers sought and received a dismissal with prejudice, avoiding escalation to formal litigation. As is typical of CBCA cases, the brief notice of the dismissal posted online by the board did not discuss the specifics of the case, except to say that CNS started the dispute.

CNS, prime contractor for the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., spent much of the past two years teetering on the brink of elimination from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear security enterprise before the agency did an about-face and extended the company at Pantex and Y-12 until at least 2024. 

In the near future, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to manage Pantex and Y-12 under separate contracts. Competition for those pacts was tentatively scheduled to begin in 2023 and 2024, respectively. 

If those start dates are firm, and since competitions for big site management deals routinely draw every major player in the nuclear contracting business and often take a year or more to complete, the government may extend CNS further. DoE’s National Nuclear Security Administration has a year’s worth of options beyond 2024 to keep CNS at Pantex and three years of options at Y-12 beyond 2024.

In May, after a round of protests from losing bidders, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced it had canceled a potentially decade-long contract, worth a total of about $30 billion, to replace CNS with a Fluor [FLR]-led team that included Amentum

The contentious competition for the canceled contract, marred by allegations of conflicts of interest, began after the government in June 2020 announced that it wanted to drop CNS, which at the time had three years of options remaining on the joint sites contract for Pantex and Y-12.