TRI-CITIES — The Department of Energy has announced it will pay the company building the Hanford vitrification plant $5 million in incentive pay after it received its best performance evaluation in three years for 2019.

Bechtel National will receive 64% of the maximum $8 million it was eligible to earn based on evaluation results, the Tri-City Herald reported.

The results included completing design engineering for parts for the plant, delivering the last of the major equipment for parts and moving to a 24/7 shift schedule.

“As I’ve said many times, 2019 was a transformative year,” Bechtel project director Valerie McCain said.

Bechtel is reimbursed for costs and can earn incentive pay, which allows it to profit more off the vitrification plant it is building to glassify radioactive waste, company officials said. The company is also eligible for additional pay when it meets deadlines to complete certain work.

Bechtel picked up the pace for the vitrification plant last year but at the cost of increased overtime pay, the Department of Energy said in its review.

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“Going forward, process and performance improvements will be needed to reduce costs,” the department said, adding that it was pleased Bechtel was successful in catching up the schedule of work in the second half of 2019.

The Hanford vitrification plant includes a pre-treatment facility, a high level waste facility, a low activity waste facility and an analytical laboratory.

Construction on the plant started in 2002 and is required to start treating low activity radioactive waste for disposal by the end of 2023.

The plant must be fully operational, which includes treating high level radioactive waste, by 2036.

The Hanford nuclear reservation produced plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War and World War II, leaving 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in underground tanks.

The vitrification plant is expected to turn much of that waste into a stable glass form for disposal. It is located in Richland.