By George Lobsenz

The Energy Department Friday issued a draft request for proposals for contractors interested in providing security services at its Savannah River Site in South Carolina, one of the biggest storage sites for special nuclear material in the DoE nuclear weapons complex.

At the same time, DoE said it plans to extend the contract for the current Savannah River security contractor, Wackenhut Services Inc. for at least nine months–and possibly up to 13 months–so it has time to review bids for the new security contract. The Wackenhut contract expires Sept. 30.

The department said it was issuing the draft request for proposals (RFP) for public comment–which is due by July 9–and that it would not seek bids until it released a final RFP at a later date.

The contract competition follows controversy over Wackenhut’s performance at commercial nuclear plants, with the company losing a large multi-plant contract with Exelon Corp. last year after a highly publicized incident in which its guards were caught on videotape dozing on the job at Exelon’s Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.

Wackenhut also has been criticized in recent years for its performance at DoE’s Oak Ridge, Tenn., nuclear site and Nevada Test Site. However, the department last year awarded a new five-year contract to the company at Oak Ridge and earlier this year gave Wackenhut good marks on its performance in the first six months of its new contract at Oak Ridge, which stores a large amount of weapons-usable high0-enriched uranium.

Savannah River is a major storage site for plutonium, spent nuclear fuel and a variety of other nuclear residues and materials left over from past nuclear weapons production at Savannah River and other department sites. Savannah River also has operating nuclear reprocessing facilities and is the site for a new plutonium fuel fabrication plant now under construction.

In a Friday notice on its procurement site announcing the availability of the draft RFP, DoE said the new security contractor in general would be responsible for protecting special nuclear material “against theft and/or diversion utilizing all available resources up to and including deadly force” and safeguarding sensitive facilities.

The new contractor also is to provide a “a force of specially trained personnel known as the Special Response Team to tactically and expeditiously respond to security emergencies with the intent of neutralizing all hostile threats.”

The draft RFP calls for a cost-plus-award fee contract with a base period of five years and options for DOE to extend the contract for another three years and then another two years after that.