“Turning 30 is an important milestone for BNI, particularly when we reflect on where we began and how far we have come as a business,” said Tom Hash, President, Bechtel Systems & Infrastructure, Inc.
BNI’s wide range of projects over the last three decades tell the story best — from managing complex, multisite post-Cold War environmental programs, to developing new technologies to fight terrorism, to designing, building, and commissioning a vast, first-of-a-kind system of nuclear waste treatment plants.
Entering the government arena
BNI began operating in 1977 with an eye to entering key U.S. government markets and building the experience and reputation as a leader in those areas. BNI’s first successful major market entrance came in 1981, when the company won a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP), a 30-year, $2.5 billion environmental cleanup program for early U.S. atomic energy program sites. In the years leading to the award, BNI had been building its expertise through a number of studies and engineering projects for DOE.
“Winning FUSRAP put us in the vanguard of the nuclear cleanup business,” said Craig Weaver, executive vice president of strategy, marketing, and business development for Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure, Inc. “It gave us the technical know-how we needed to perform this work successfully, and led to the establishment of our office in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near our DOE customer. The office became the real backbone of BNI’s technical work in the environmental cleanup business.”
Moving into management and operations
The late 1980s brought new opportunities in site management and operations (M&O), as the end of the Cold War led to a shift from manufacturing to cleanup of nuclear material. BNI entered the M&O market in 1989 as a subcontractor to Westinghouse Savannah River Company at DOE’s 310-square-mile Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, South Carolina. While BNI had been performing work at the site since 1979, the new role offered the chance to bring its project management skills to bear on a large, complex DOE site.
BNI’s work continues at SRS, as part of a team now headed by Washington Savannah River Company. BNI performs soil and groundwater closure projects and provides project management, design, and construction services.
Its 1994 win of the Hanford Environmental Restoration Contract (ERC) established BNI as a DOE prime contractor. Under ERC, BNI managed work in Washington state to clean up waste sites near the Columbia River, demolish contaminated facilities, operate the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, and place three remaining plutonium production reactors — some dating back to the 1940s — in interim safe storage.
BNI continues to have a major presence at the Hanford site, as part of a team on the ERC continuation contract known as River Corridor Closure, and as the prime contractor charged with designing, building, and commissioning a complex treatment plant system to immobilize high-level radioactive waste stored in underground tanks at the site.
Managing DOE sites
A watershed event happened in 1995 when BNI was awarded the prime M&O contract for the Nevada Test Site (NTS), whose footprint is the size of Rhode Island. During its 10 years at NTS, BNI led the site’s diversification into such areas as national security, hazardous chemical spill testing, conventional weapons testing, and waste management, environmental restoration, and technology development studies.
“The NTS award brought us into the field of major DOE facilities managers,” said Weaver, who joined BNI in 1993 and led the business development efforts that resulted in the NTS win as well as other major contract awards that followed.
With its M&O work proceeding well at NTS, BNI went on to win the contract to lead the management, operations, and environmental restoration team at DOE’s Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, which covers over 890 square miles in southeast Idaho. “That win helped us become a major player in the environmental management market,” said Weaver. “It also helped make us an attractive team member for both Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, which we manage and operate as part of a consortium co-led by the University of California.”
Entering the chemical demilitarization market
Another turning point for BNI came in 1996 when it joined a Westinghouse-led team as the prime construction contractor for the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ACADF) in eastern Alabama. Considered one of the largest construction programs ever directed by the U.S. Army, ACADF involved building a facility to destroy 661,529 weapons containing 2,254 tons of chemical agent as part of the global, multilateral Chemical Weapons Convention. BNI again called on its core engineering and construction (E&C) capabilities to win and perform the work, which included building all key facilities.
“That role was our entry to the chemical demilitarization market, and led to awards to prime at three additional chemical weapons sites across the United States,” said Weaver.
BNI’s work continued at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, whose stockpile has been destroyed safely using a first-of-its-kind neutralization facility, and Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky and Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado, where stockpiles will be destroyed using similar technologies in facilities now being designed.
Meeting emergency needs
After over 25 years of diversifying its experience and successfully adapting its core skills to meet new customer needs, BNI was ready to respond to a history-making — and profile-changing — challenge. In early 2003, the U.S. Agency for International Development competitively awarded BNI its first of two contracts to help rebuild Iraq’s vital infrastructure that had been ravaged by decades of war, sanctions, and dictatorship. Three years later, employees from across Bechtel’s business lines, along with thousands of Iraqi workers, had completed nearly 100 job orders in areas from power and airports to bridges and telecommunications.
“The Iraq project put BNI on a world stage,” said Weaver. “Winning the work was not only a reflection of our reputation in the industry, but it also demonstrated the diverse capabilities we could bring to bear in a challenging environment.”
In August 2005, while employees were continuing their work across the world in Iraq, a historic catastrophe called Hurricane Katrina put the United States in crisis. Again, BNI responded to the call — this time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). BNI mobilized within four days and eventually delivered and readied for occupancy more than 35,000 temporary housing units to shelter nearly 100,000 people in Mississippi, considered the fastest such housing operation in FEMA’s history.
“It was not our traditional business, but we knew we had the necessary program management skills, and we wanted to help people who were desperately in need,” said Weaver.
Pursuing opportunities in telecoms and IT
Another nontraditional business for BNI, but one whose expanding opportunities call for BNI’s core E&C and project management capabilities, is the federal communications and technology market. BNI created a unit called Federal Telecoms at the end of 2005 to pursue work for the U.S. government that draws on Bechtel’s experience and strong technical competence in commercial telecommunications.
“We are concentrating on building our business and are subcontracting on key procurements, such as Networx, the largest telecommunications contract in U.S. government history,” said Federal Telecoms President Jim Payne. “The sector is already starting to show some healthy growth and promise for BNI.”
“The markets have certainly changed over the last three decades, and we know they will continue to change as our customers’ needs evolve,” said Weaver. “We look forward to anticipating those needs and then nimbly adapting to meet them in the next 30 years and beyond.”
ABOUT BECHTEL NATIONAL, INC.
Based in Frederick, Maryland, BNI is a leading provider of services to the U.S. government, specializing in large, complex projects in such areas as defense, space, energy, security, and the environment. BNI is part of San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., one of the world's premier engineering, construction, and project management companies, with experience on more than 22,000 projects in 140 countries on all seven continents.
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