UC Will Not Compete to Keep LANL Contract

* The University of California (or UC) announced this week that should the managing contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) be open for bidding, it will not compete. This would end 60 years of UC management at LANL.

The announcement comes following criticism of UC's management due to the exposition of years of fraud and mismanagement at LANL, including nearly $300,000 in stolen or misplaced property. Although representatives claim that UC has taken steps to correct LANL's management problems, UC will respect the federal government's wishes and step down should the LANL bid be open. Bruce Darling, UC spokesperson, said, "We will not compete for the contract because it is a public service; it is something we do for the nation."

The final decision of whether to relinquish the contract resides with UC's board of regents, who met this week. Regent Ward Connerly said, "It would be...a blow [to UC]. The fact that we are administering [Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories] does represent a certain amount of prestige and is a symbol that we are at the top of the game when it comes to research and technology."

However, Darling said that UC is prepared to step aside graciously if need be. He said, "We will...very happily make [the] transition [to a different contractor]." Nevertheless, UC has said that unless it is forced to relinquish LANL's contract, it is not considering giving up the contract. Darling argues that during these perilous times of war and potential terrorism, it would be unwise to change the operation of LANL. He said, "It has never been a more important time for the nation to have these capabilities."

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham sent a letter to UC on December 24th chastising it for its poor management of LANL. He said, "Taken together, these problems have called into question [UC's] ability to run [LANL]." Abraham also said that he is prepared to terminate UC's contract despite the five-year extension that was recently granted.

Furthermore, LANL is currently undergoing congressional investigation, which is also questioning UC's management. Ken Johnson, spokesperson for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, "Every year we are told that the problems are going to get better, and every year they seem to get worse. From our perspective, UC's management of [LANL and Livermore] has been woefully inadequate."

* Sandia National Laboratory announced recently that, despite recommendations by an independent peer review panel, it would not consider cleanup of the Mixed Waste Landfill in Albuquerque. The panel, which is composed of prominent university professors from around the nation, found that Sandia's Corrective Measures Study should include an option for future cleanup.

However, Sandia announced that they would maintain their current options for the landfill, which include capping and monitoring or doing nothing. Sue Dayton, of Citizen Action, said, "The plan for the [landfill] was set in stone long ago, despite its long-term impacts on the community. It will continue to be based on DOE's new policy of leaving waste in the ground instead of sound science."

Back to News Index