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Bechtel Jacobs

“Bemused” or “amused” or “upset”?

I can’t choose the best word to describe my thoughts on media reaction to the City of Oak Ridge comments on the draft request for proposals (RFP) for DOE’s Oak Ridge environmental management (EM) contract (the successor to Bechtel Jacobs). OK, I’m tickled to see that Frank Munger likes my own main addition to those comments — the suggestion that the contract be named “Oak Ridge,” not just “East Tennessee Technology Park”, since it’s for environmental cleanup and waste management across the Oak Ridge complex, not just at ETTP. But what to say about the way Munger described those comments in his blog — not to mention the online reaction? One city comment asked DOE to require that the top executives of the new contractor and major subcontractors have “their primary residences” in Oak Ridge. It’s unfortunate that Munger sees this as “forcing” them to live in the city. Consider that this purpose of this contract is to clean up sites in Oak Ridge that are contaminated with radioactive and hazardous material, manage legacy wastes, and do it all in a manner that ensures current and future public safety. Shouldn’t the people responsible for leading this work (who, by the way, likely will receive high-six-figure compensation for their trouble) show their confidence in the quality of their work by living in the same community where they are working? From my professional background and experience at ORNL, I know more about environmental conditions here than most people do, and I believe that the Oak Ridge residential environment is safe and that the public has no reason to fear the impacts of ongoing “EM” work, but what does it tell the world if the top executives responsible for this work decide to locate their homes and families 15 or 20 miles away from the project? As the city’s letter states, “This requirement is especially important for the cleanup contract to promote community and public confidence in the ability of the Contractor to perform the work in a safe manner.”

Oak Ridge environmental cleanup has given the city of Oak Ridge an undeserved bad reputation, while providing a significant economic boost for the region. It is entirely reasonable that the people who are profiting from cleanup should support the community that is supporting them.