University of Texas Considering Bid for LANL Management

California Report Investigates Plutonium in Gardens Around Livermore

* The University of Texas announced this week that it would be interested in bidding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) management contract should it be open for bidding. The statement comes following the announcement of the University of California (or UC) last week that if the contract were opened, UC would not compete, despite 60 years of management at LANL.

Texas has long desired to manage the national laboratories. Most recently, Texas submitted a bid to manage Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, but lost to Lockheed-Martin. When asked about their interest in LANL, Sheldon Landsberger, coordinator of UT-Austin's nuclear and radiation program, said, "I'm pretty sure [Texas] would be interested in doing that, maybe in conjunction with one or two other universities."

The recent scandal at LANL has spurred allegations by the Department of Energy (or DOE) of gross mismanagement by UC. Furthermore, both DOE and several Congressional committees have undertaken investigations of mismanagement at LANL, as well as the national laboratories in Calfornia. Congressman James Greenwood, of Pennsylvania, said, "...It's fundamentally a bad idea to give a $2 billion contract to any entity ... decade after decade.... When that happens, as I think it has happened here, there is a natural tendency to lose accountability, to get sloppy and create a culture in which these kinds of things can happen."

Texas representatives are confident that they have the capacity for managing such a large-scale operation. Educational and scientific officials say that Texas has the necessary managerial skills, technical expertise, talented personnel, and a large enough budget to manage LANL. In their bid for the Sandia contract, Texas claimed that they have "the strength and capacity to do an excellent job in management of a national [laboratory]."

Pete Stockton, of the Project on Government Oversight, is wary of UC's threat to leave if the bid is opened. He said, "It was [the] same [thing] youšve always heard in the past.... [If we change contractors, all these great scientists will leave.] These scientists make a huge amount of money [at the national laboratories]; they lead a charmed life. They would never be able to get that elsewhere."

* The California Department of Health Services recently released a report detailing releases of plutonium-239 and americium-241 into the sewer system surrounding Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The report estimates that as much as 32 millicuries of contamination were released into the sewer system in 1967.

Furthermore, from 1958 to 1976, contaminated sewage sludge was routinely released to the public for use as a soil amendment. Neither the location nor the levels of contamination in the sludge are known.

The report suggests that Livermore consider including full public participation in the program in order to incorporate the needs of all stakeholders and the decision-making body; developing criteria for analysis and interpretation of laboratory results before sampling begins; determining a trigger level and procedure for removing contaminated soil; and addressing legal issues such as property value and compensation.

The report is available for public comment from the California Department of Health Services now.

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