* Pete Nanos, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director, gave the State of LANL Address this week saying that LANL has overcome recent allegations of mismanagement and that the University of California (UC) is prepared to fight to retain management of LANL.
Nanos said that there is no culture of theft at LANL, and nearly all of the stolen property has been accounted for. Secure business practices and sound management have become one of LANL's top priorities. He also claimed that the media wrongfully exaggerated the claims of theft, including the alleged attempt by an employee to purchase a sports car on a LANL purchase card.
The employee claims that the incident occurred because a company in Arizona from which she had been trying to procure scientific equipment moved and transferred its telephone number to a Ford dealership. She said that, unknowingly, she gave the dealership LANL's purchase card number, and they then fraudulently charged a $30,000 Mustang to LANL. Nanos said, "There never was a Mustang. Innocence is the word that comes to mind when thinking of the individual who was excoriated by the press."
Nanos outlined LANL's top five priorities, which include safety, science, compliance and national security. Nanos commended LANL's weapons work, claiming that, "Nuclear weapons have performed the role of the United Nations in the latter half of the 20th century. Nuclear weapons have been the guarantor of the world's safety." He also said, "[LANL] would not survive economically without a strong tie to the weapons industry. This is what we do as a laboratory and we're proud of it."
Audience member and UC alumnus Darwin BondGraham pointed out that there was a growing movement among UC faculty and students to sever UCıs ties to the weapons industry. Nanos countered that BondGraham was out of touch with the American sentiment towards nuclear weapons if he believed that UC was not performing a public service by managing LANL.
Nanos said that, if UC were to lose LANLıs management contract, "we will have terribly broken something for the country." Nanos said that management by a private corporation could potentially ruin LANL, citing the management of Sandia National Laboratory by Lockheed Martin. Nanos said, "If [LANL] ever turns into another Sandia - and Sandia is a fine institution - but it's not a science lab."
When questioned about the proposed Modern Pit Facility (MPF), which could produce up to 500 new nuclear weapons per year, Nanos argued that the MPF is an issue of nuclear weapons policy and that he, as a representative of LANL, would not be involved in such a debate. He said, "It's our responsibility to do whatever the American public wants us to do."
Nanos also said that he is focused on honesty, openness and transparency. However, activists questioned his dedication to this supposed mission following his refusal to engage in dialogue with those who disagreed with LANL's nuclear weapons mission. Nanos said, "There are people in the activist community who cannot believe that anyone could possibly believe that nuclear weapons are a good thing, and that's sad."