Energy contractors at nuke sites found to have conflict of interest

Tennessee Valley Authority/AP File Photo

Energy Department contractors working to decontaminate two moribund nuclear weapons sites hold financial ties that amount to a conflict of interest, an inspector general’s report found.

Prime contractors at plants in Piketon, Ohio, and Oak Ridge, Tenn., are “unable to render impartial assistance or advice to the government” and otherwise perform objectively because they own stakes in subcontracting companies. Auditors, acting on a complaint, found that Energy managers failed to police against the potential for organizational conflict of interest among firms executing a five-year, $4.3 billion environmental cleanup involving radioactive material.

“The issues we identified occurred because federal officials did not ensure that contractors completed required mitigation efforts, and fully appreciate the potential impact of assigning employees across company boundaries during teaming arrangements,” the auditors wrote.

The chief contractor, Restoration Services Inc., oversaw the work of subcontractor Vetco, and another contractor, URS CH2M Oak Ridge or UCOR, supervised the work of RSI.

Auditors recommended adopting a more concise process for identifying conflicts of interest and enhancing training.

Energy managers in Washington agreed with the recommendations; the manager of the Oak Ridge project wrote a letter denying a conflict of interest.

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