Lockheed Martin to Manage Sandia Until 2008
The Bay Area Nuclear Waste Coalition (or BAN Waste) won a tremendous victory recently when the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Inventory Act was signed into California law by Governor Gray Davis. The Act requires the nuclear industry in California to report to the California Department of Health on the extent and types of low-level radioactive waste that they generate, store, treat, transfer and dispose. New York is the only other state in which a similar law has been passed.
Formerly, the low-level radioactive waste industry was the only California industry that was not required to report its activities to the state. Ward Young, director of BAN Waste, said, "The state is rather embarrassed that it is in the dark about important information regarding radioactive waste shipment, storage, treatment and disposal, and now the information flow will be opened up."
Bill supporters argued that the legislation will encourage a reduction in waste production and greater accountability by waste producing industries. Also, reporting will help state agencies and watchdog groups ensure that waste producing industries are following the law. BAN Waste hopes that the bill will become a model for other states to follow. The bill also received overwhelming support from the public. BAN Waste credits the numerous calls and faxes from California residents as having contributed largely to the bill's passing.
The legislation faced heavy opposition from major California industries, including Boeing Industries, as well as the U.S. Navy. The Navy claimed that all information about low-level radioactive waste must be restricted in the interest of national security. The bill's author, Sheila Kuehl, from Santa Monica, defended the public's right to know, saying, "We are not living in a military state. This is a democracy."
Despite the victory, activists are concerned about the large amounts of low-level waste that has already been dumped in California's municipal landfills that remains unaccounted for.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced in Albuquerque recently that Lockheed Martin corporation will continue to be the managing contractor for Sandia National Laboratory until at least 2008. The company has managed Sandia since 1993. After a performance review of the contractor, Abraham said, "Where performance has been outstanding, it's important that it be rewarded." The contract is worth $16 million in management fees to the corporation.
The University of Texas was also seeking to take over the contract. This lead to a battle between the Congressional delegations of Texas and New Mexico, who supported Lockheed Martin. New Mexico's delegation praised Abraham's decision.
Texas officials congratulated Lockheed Martin, saying, "[The University looks] forward to continuing to work with the Department of Energy, Sandia and Lockheed Martin Corporation in areas of mutual interest and research expertise."
Lockheed Martin routinely receives a higher performance rating at Sandia than contractors at the nation's other two nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.
The contract constitutes only a fraction of Lockheed Martin's $ 3 billion average annual earnings. The company claims that it is not interested in the financial benefits of the contract, but rather the "pride" of being associated with Sandia's work.
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