The two top officials from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation GOT some tough questioning at a congressional briefing Wednesday on issues ranging from privatization of tank waste cleanup to Fluor Daniels’ occasionally rocky start as project manager.
Despite the questions at the closed-door briefing for members and staff, John Wagoner, who heads the Energy Department’s Richland operations office, and Hank Hatch, president of Fluor Daniels Hanford Co., said there seems to be a growing understanding of the progress being made. “They were not as skeptical as last year,” Wagoner said after the session.
The briefing was one in a series sponsored by a House task force focusing on the cleanup of DOE’s defense sites and chaired by Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings, R-Wash., whose district includes Hanford.
“I thought it went well,” said Hastings, adding that staff members from such key committees as Appropriations, Commerce and National Security attended.
In addition to the briefing, Wagoner and Hatch also met privately with several members to discuss the situation at Hanford, where overhead costs are up $26 million this year with the Fluor Daniel takeover, after declining by $200 million annually over the past several years.
The takeover also has caused unease in the Tri-Cities with some labor contracts still unresolved, nagging questions about local procurement practices, and the failure of some of the new companies to create additional jobs as promised.
“Basically, there is a lot of anxiety in the community,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a staunch supporter of Hanford who met with Wagoner and Hatch.
“But DOE Richland is strongly behind (Fluor) and believes they will achieve their objective. I have my fingers crossed. DOE Richland and Fluor have a job to do in convincing the local community that their approach is the right way.”
Wagoner, in an interview, said he thought the cleanup program at Hanford was headed in the right direction after some not unexpected bumps in the first days of the Fluor contract.
“Am I satisfied with where we are? Yes,” Wagoner said. “Am I satisfied with the costs yet? I’d like to get them down faster.”
But Wagoner added he was especially satisfied the cleanup schedule hadn’t slipped even with the addition of Fluor and 13 subcontractors.
Hatch, in a separate interview, said his management team has submitted a new plan to the department that would reduce overhead costs to $270 million, compared with $319 million in the last year of the Westinghouse Hanford contract.
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