Contractor getting $5 million bonus for Hanford vitrification plant

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — The Department of Energy has announced it will pay the company building the Hanford vitrification plant $5 million in incentive pay after it received its best performance evaluation in three years for 2019.

Bechtel National will receive 64 percent of the maximum $8 million it was eligible to earn based on evaluation results, the Tri-City Herald reported.

The results include completing design engineering for parts for the plant, delivering the last of the major equipment for parts and moving to a 24/7 shift schedule.

“As I’ve said many times, 2019 was a transformative year,” Bechtel project director Valerie McCain said.

Bechtel is reimbursed for costs and can earn incentive pay, which allows it to profit more off of the vitrification plant it is building to glassify radioactive waste, company officials said. The company is also eligible for additional pay when it meets deadlines to complete certain work.

Bechtel picked up the pace for the vitrification plant last year but at the cost of increased overtime pay, the Department of Energy said in its review.

“Going forward, process and performance improvements will be needed to reduce costs,” the department said, adding that it was pleased Bechtel was successful in catching up the schedule of work in the second half of 2019.

The Hanford vitrification plant includes a pre-treatment facility, a high level waste facility, a low activity waste facility and an analytical laboratory.

Construction on the plant started in 2002 and is required to start treating low activity radioactive waste for disposal by the end of 2023.

The plant must be fully operational, which includes treating high level radioactive waste, by 2036.

The Hanford nuclear reservation produced plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War and World War II, leaving 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in underground tanks.

The vitrification plant is expected to turn much of that waste into a stable glass form for disposal. It is located in Richland, about 200 miles southeast of Seattle.

Top health official: No virus surge since state reopening

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon hasn’t seen a coronavirus resurgence in the weeks since most counties began to slowly reopen businesses, the state’s top health official said Wednesday.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen spoke of declining hospitalizations and infection rates as evidence that the spread of COVID-19 remains mild, even as new reported cases increased slightly in recent days, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

He credited Oregonians for taking steps to reduce their risk of infection, such as wearing face coverings in public and continuing to practice social distancing.

“I think it’s safe to say our situation is stable,” Allen said in a news conference with Gov. Kate Brown. “As stores, salons and restaurants have reopened across the state, COVID-19 has not reemerged with renewed ferocity.”

The official assessment comes as other states throughout the U.S. — such as Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin — have seen steady increases in coronavirus infections and deaths after lifting stay-home orders imposed at the beginning of the outbreak.

Brown allowed most counties to gradually resume public and economic activity May 15. Twenty-six counties have applied to enter Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process starting Friday, which lifts additional restrictions.

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