Michael Budney, SRS CAB Meeting (copy) (copy)

Savannah River Site manager Michael Budney speaks at a Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board meeting. Budney spoke to the Aiken Rotary Club last week.

The global coronavirus crisis hindered the U.S. Department of Energy's solicitation plans for the upcoming Savannah River Site Integrated Mission Completion Contract, according to site manager Michael Budney.

As a result, Budney told the Aiken Rotary Club last week, Savannah River Remediation was flagged for a contract extension.

The prospective extension would keep the longtime Savannah River Site liquid-waste contractor on the job through September 2021 and possibly, with three four-month options available, well into 2022. That extra time covers the Energy Department as it works on the integrated contract, eventually evaluates proposals and, ultimately, makes an award.

Nearly 2 million cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious novel coronavirus, had been confirmed in the U.S. as of Monday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and data collated in a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

As the liquid-waste team, Savannah River Remediation is charged with, among other tasks, handling and treating millions of gallons of nuclear waste currently kept on-site in aging, underground storage tanks.

The Integrated Mission Completion Contract – a yearslong, potentially $21 billion venture – would combine the liquid-waste mission with some management of nuclear materials, a job currently handled by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the management and operations contractor at SRS.

"Because of the coronavirus issues," Budney said via Zoom, a video-conferencing platform, "we just weren't able to get through the solicitation process for the replacement contract for that effort."

The Energy Department earlier this year said a final request for proposals for the integrated contract would be issued no sooner than September – the same month Savannah River Remediation's contract expires.

Colin Demarest covers the SRS, DOE, its NNSA and government, in general. Support his crucial reporting and local journalism, in general, by subscribing. Follow Colin on Twitter: @demarest_colin.