The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday it has begun seeking bids for a lucrative contract for transporting hazardous, transuranic waste between national laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico.
Two existing contracts, issued in 2012 at a combined $239.5 million, are set to expire in January and July 2017.
When the contracts were reissued four years ago to CAST Specialty Transportation Inc. and Visionary Solutions LLC, the companies expected to be shipping an average of 20 to 35 loads of transuranic waste each week, with each load containing 14 55-gallon drums of contaminated debris from nuclear weapons production. A truck route could span between 300 and 1,500 miles between a national lab and WIPP, where such waste has been stored inside a salt bed near Carlsbad since 1999.
But things haven’t gone as planned. In February 2014, a waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory burst in one panel of the salt cavern, contaminating portions of the underground facility and shuttering the plant’s operations.