A strong track record supporting the energy and environmental sectors
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations at Leidos, Insights will be taking a closer look over the coming weeks at some of the key moments in the company's history. For a deeper dive into our past, we invite you to download and read our new eBook.
Two of the United States’ worst environmental disasters occurred in the late 1970s. Love Canal, a neighborhood within Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Three Mile Island, a nuclear plant located south of Harrisburg, Pa., made national headlines within months of each other. As it approached its first decade in business, Leidos — then named Science Applications Incorporated (SAI) — played a vital cleanup role at both sites.
In 1977, some Love Canal residents started noticing strange substances oozing into the basements of their homes. New York declared a state of emergency in the area in August 1978 after conducting an investigation of the air, soil, and groundwater. State officials discovered that buried toxic chemicals from the 1940s and early 1950s were seeping out of the ground and into homes, yards, and public property throughout the town.
Days after New York’s state of emergency declaration, President Jimmy Carter declared Love Canal a federal health emergency. It became the first time in American history that federal emergency funds were used for something other than a natural disaster.
To address the emergency, home sump pumps were sealed off and the federal government built trenches to transport the toxic waste to sewers. SAI supported the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the cleanup effort, which resulted in the relocation of almost 1,000 residents.
The work at Love Canal helped establish SAI’s expertise in hazardous waste containment, and the company was called upon again less than a year later. On March 28, 1979, a combination of human and mechanical errors caused one of Three Mile Island’s reactors to partially melt. The accident caused a leak of radioactive gases and became the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history.
Nuclear-focused contracts were commonplace during SAI’s early days — founder Dr. J. Robert Beyster was a nuclear physicist, after all. The company possessed extensive knowledge in the field of nuclear energy, so it sent a team of experts to stabilize and monitor Three Mile Island after the accident.
SAI played a vital role in the cleanup there, which led to more nuclear-monitoring work during the 1980s. This included the federal government hiring the company to assess the safety of U.S. nuclear reactor facilities following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. That assignment helped turn the company into the leading supplier of probabilistic risk assessments for the American nuclear power industry.
Today, Leidos continues important work supporting the federal government in the energy and environmental sector through the Hanford Mission Support contract. The Hanford site is a decommissioned nuclear production complex in Washington State. At 586 square miles, Hanford is larger than the city of Los Angeles and is one of the world’s largest nuclear cleanup projects.
Hanford opened in 1943 and served as the plutonium production site for the Manhattan Project. The site went on to manufacture plutonium for the U.S. Cold War arsenal into the 1980s. When manufacturing at Hanford stopped, upkeep of the site’s core infrastructure stopped as well. As the managing partner on the contract, Leidos provides site management services that the Department of Energy and the site’s 8,000 workers need to perform the ongoing cleanup and remediation.