The Department of Energy kicked off procurement of the next Savannah River Site management and operations contract by publishing a request for information from industry about a pact that will fund the Aiken, S.C., site’s biggest nuclear-weapons programs.

DoE will sort out the value, duration and exact form of the contract after hearing back from industry. The pact will replace the one now held by the Fluor [FLR]-led Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNL), which is set to expire Sept. 30 and has only a single, one-year options left. That deal, first awarded in 2008 and since extended, is worth a little less than $15 billion.

According to

DoE’s request for information, the follow-on management and operations contract will include many of the things in the incumbent’s current contract: landlord duties such as maintenance and building operations, cybersecurity, a limited amount of solid-waste cleanup and transuranic waste compliance.

Unlike the incumbent, the next site-management accord will not include management of the Savannah River National Laboratory. DoE’s Environmental Management Office, which owns Savannah River site, is splitting lab-management into its own 10-year contract, worth nearly $4-billion.

The national security motherload on the successor contract to SRNL will be construction and operation of the Savannah River Site’s planned plutonium-pit production plant, the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility, and construction of the new tritium harvesting facility, the Tritium Finishing Facility.

The NNSA plans to make the pit plant out of the partially completed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, which officially lost its plutonium-disposal mission for the agency’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation office in 2018. The facility is supposed to cast 50 pits annually by 2030, initially for W87-1 warheads to be used on Ground Based Strategic Deterrence intercontinental ballistic missiles next decade.

Tritium is the radioactive hydrogen isotope that increases the yield of nuclear weapons. The isotope, housed in a reservoir within a nuke, decays relatively rapidly over several years and must be replaced to preserve the designed destructive power of the U.S. arsenal.

The new management and operations contract will also make the Savannah River Site the administrative nexus of the Surplus Plutonium Disposition that has replaced the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility as the NNSA’s means of permanently deweaponizing 34 metric tons of surplus, weapon-usable plutonium via the dilute-and-dispose method: chemically weakening the plutonium, converting it to an oxide, blending it with an inert mixture at Savannah River and shipping it off to DoE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., for deep-underground burial.

The planned contract also would cover the NNSA’s other nonproliferation missions at Savannah River Site, including disposal of spent nuclear fuel, and other nuclear material, both from the U.S. and other countries. 

Even with the revenue from the national lab excised from the landlord contract, a deal this big has a scent strong enough to bring every defense-nuclear-capable contractor to the yard, one industry source said.

According to this person, the major players around the DoE complex have been sizing one another up as potential teammates or competitors on the Savananh River management and operations contract since early in the year. 

Among the big DoE nuclear contractor are: Amentum, the former AECOM Technical Services [ACM]; Atkins; Bechtel National, which like Amentum is in the middle of new-business dry-spell in the nuclear complex; BWX Technologies [BWXT]; Honeywell [HON]; Fluor; Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII]; and Jacobs [JCM].