Toxic Pantex waste contaminates adjacent farm; and

Debate over extending University of California contract for management of LANL heats up.

* The Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University has released a report containing grim warnings over global nuclear instability. Compiled by a team of researchers led by a former assistant defense secretary, this report is the most detailed of a series of warning deilvered in the last year by American and other foreign government officials.

The report claims that issues of nuclear insecurity - especially in Russia - are either being ignored or dealt with very slowly. Regarding Russia, the report states, "Huge, uninventoried quantities of weapons-usable material are being stored and transported under conditions of extreme insecurity, while Russia undergoes convulsive change ... Without U.S. assistance, trouble is virtually certain." The apparent aim of the report is to prod the Clinton administration and its allies into providing the Russian government with more aid towards enhancing nuclear weapons materials security. The report warns that: 1.) some Russian facilities storing nuclear materials are less well-guarded than standard industrial plants; 2.) transportation of nuclear weapons materials is highly insecure; and 3.) the demand for nuclear weapons materials by countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea and terrorist or organized crime groups is very high.

At the same time, Russia is undergoing severe economic dislocation. All of these factors are creating a situation in which the opportunity for diversion or theft of nuclear weapons materials is greatly magnified.

Debate over extending University of California contract for management of LANL heats up.

The debate over whether DOE should put the management contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) out for competitive bid has recently heated up. DOE is expected to make a decision sometime in March.

LANL has always been managed by the University of California (UC). For its management of LANL, UC received $25 million annually, which the University claims makes no profit above expenses. UC faculty have in the past voted nearly 75% that the University should divest itself of nuclear weapons laboratories management. Because the contracts are controlled by UC regents, however, faculty votes had no binding effect.

Following the controversy surrounding layoffs to hundreds of full-time LANL employees, Senator Bingaman and Congressman Richardson wrote to DOE urging it to open up the management contract to a competitive bid. Richardson has since backed off from that position, in part because he says that UC has begun to meet some of his concerns over fair employment practices.

Numerous laid-off employees have claimed that the reduction-in-force process was capricious and discriminatory. Other critics argue that UC has historically shown little concern for economic development in Northern New Mexico. Another potential issue in the contract debate is the quality of UC management in the environmental arena. For example, LANL has never been in compliance with the regulatory citeria of the Clean Air Act and is behind schedule in completing the 1992 findings of a DOE environmental audit team.

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