A Bechtel company, Salado Isolation Mining Contractors LLC (SIMCO), has assumed responsibility for managing and operating the only deep underground repository for defense-related transuranic nuclear waste in the United States, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.
SIMCO is a single-purpose entity whose parent organization is Bechtel National, Inc. SIMCO successfully completed contract transition activities, and the U.S. Department of Energy granted authorization for the company to assume management and operations responsibility on Saturday, February 4.
“We successfully completed the transition and kept WIPP’s ongoing mission of safe nuclear waste disposal the highest priority,” said Ken Harrawood, SIMCO president and program manager. “We thank the team at WIPP, many who are longtime employees, for welcoming us and supporting the transition. Our joint team is dedicated to safely disposing of the decades-old waste and fulfilling WIPP’s mission.”
SIMCO successfully onboarded nearly 1,100 employees with no workforce reductions. Union contracts and vendor agreements are continuing without interruption.
Photo: A shipment of transuranic waste arrives at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. (Department of Energy photo)
WIPP is a system of disposal rooms mined out of the ancient Salado salt formation more than 2,000 feet underground near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Originally designed by a team that included Bechtel, WIPP has operated since 1999, accepting waste from 22 government sites across the U.S. The waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil, and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other human-made radioactive elements, known as transuranic or TRU waste. The waste has been accumulating since the 1940s as part of the nation’s nuclear defense program.
The Department of Energy selected SIMCO in July of 2022 and, following resolution of protests by unsuccessful bidders, issued the notice to proceed in early November. The work scope is valued at up to $3 billion over 10 years if all options are exercised.