Nuclear Waste Company Received $1.9 Million Performance Bonus…5 Days after Underground Fire Shut Facility

Thursday, July 24, 2014
DOE Carlsbad Field Office Site Operations Director Casey Gadbury (right) presents Farok Sharif, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership,with a sustainability award

Government officials overseeing the nation’s only underground storage for nuclear waste allowed a nearly $2 million bonus go to a private contractor just days after its shoddy work resulted in a fire that closed the facility.


The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico shut down in February after a salt-hauling truck caught fire in the facility’s underground tunnels.


The fire may have been the result of diesel oil building up on the vehicle’s engine. Shortly after that event, a container with radioactive waste sprung a leak. Investigators are still determining whether the two occurrences were linked.


Regardless, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), a $1.9 million bonus for its “excellent” work at WIPP during 2013. Included in the criteria for that bonus is safety and maintenance. The bonus was delivered five days after the truck fire.


Independent watchdogs have been beside themselves over DOE’s decision.


“Efforts to hold individuals or entities accountable remain unclear,” Martin Schneider, chief executive of ExchangeMonitor Publications, wrote in an editorial. “No federal or contractor official has lost their job, been transferred, been moved off the WIPP contract or otherwise held accountable. No leadership has changed at the federal level. No company has lost a contract.”


“It’s become almost a ritual that the contractor gets its bonus no matter what,” Edwin Lyman, senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ global security program, told the Albuquerque Journal. “There is so little competition for management of these sites.”


Subsequently, DOE did fine NWP for allowing the fire: It reduced the firm’s potential $8.2 million paycheck for this year by $2 million.


However, the company can get back half that $2 million for good performance or making corrective changes, the Albuquerque Journal reported.


WIPP has been shut down since the fire and is expected to re-open in 2016.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

WIPP Contractor Received $1.9M Bonus after Fire (by Lauren Villagran, Albuquerque Journal)

Fire Shuts Down Nuclear Repository, But DOE Still Recognizes Operator for “Excellent” Performance (Homeland Security News Wire)


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