Fixed the staircase but not the nuclear waste cleanup of course…..
Repairs to a nearly $2 million staircase are needed because one of the Department of Energy’s biggest contractors got more than 1,000 incorrect parts needed for a high-priority project to treat radioactive waste, but often stuck taxpayers with the bill rather than returning them.
Bechtel National Inc. was contracted to design and build a plant to treat most of the 56 million gallons of “hazardous and highly radioactive waste stored in underground tanks at the Hanford Site” in Washington state, according to an Energy Department inspector general report. The project requires “a number of highly complex and one-of-a-kind parts and equipment.”
Bechtel, however, went years without noticing that some of its vendors were sending parts that wouldn’t work for the treatment plant. Even then, Bechtel – “one of the most respected global engineering” companies according to its website – often waited years to exchange the items.
The IG reviewed 1,365 reports issued between 2009 and 2014 that detailed hundreds of shipments of wrong equipment and materials.
Forty-four percent of the problems weren’t noticed until at least two years after the items arrived, the report said. In fact, issues with 25 items weren’t found until nine years after their delivery.
For example, 64 stair risers – the vertical parts on staircases – were delivered and installed between 2004 and 2012. But it wasn’t until November 2013 that Bechtel noticed that all but nine of the stairs didn’t meet the standards they required and “were considered a safety hazard,” the report said.
Bechtel officials didn’t notice the problem “earlier because they did not check the dimension of the stair riser height and did not have the tools to do so.”
Fixing the stairs was estimated to cost $1.8 million, which was split between the vendor and Bechtel. A measuring tape can be purchased on Amazon.com for under $10, and a yardstick costs less than $5.
But that wasn’t the only time Bechtel failed to recover tax dollars after it received a wrong part.
“In many cases, Bechtel either canceled efforts to recover the costs or recovered only a portion of the costs incurred,” the report said.
In one case, Bechtel employees found a problem with a piece of equipment in June 2012, but hadn’t sought a refund as of October 2014.
“The vendor who supplied the equipment ceased operations in April 2013, leaving Bechtel with no means to recover the equipment repair costs,” the report said.
The problems stemmed from “Bechtel’s failure to effectively implement corrective actions, a lack of timeliness” and “inadequate federal oversight over Bechtel’s cost recovery process,” the report said. In fact, the Energy Department “relied on Bechtel to inform the department of issues.”
“If improvements are not made to Bechtel’s processes … it will continue to unnecessarily increase the cost to the Department,” the report said.
Hanford – a site previously part of the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons – was closed in 1987 and is “one of the Department of Energy’s largest cleanup challenges,” the report said.