The University of California retains control of Los Alamos National Lab.

Control of Los Alamos National Laboratory is staying in the family. The Department of Energy announced today that the University of California (UC) will continue to head the nation’s oldest nuclear lab, after 60 years of continuous management under the UC.

The Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS)—a limited liability corporation made up of the UC, the Bechtel Corporation, BWX Technologies and Washington Group International—beat out a Lockheed/University of Texas partnership to win the new contract, worth up to $512 million over the next 7 years. The corporation was formed specifically to manage the lab.

“I’m confident that we have done this properly,” Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said this afternoon, as he announced the results of the contract competition.

DOE officials would only disclose limited details about the proposals, but said LANS had won based on a strong proposal that tightly integrated the strengths of its diverse parent organizations, encouraged interdisciplinary approaches to both research and management, and offered increased cooperation between Los Alamos and other national laboratories.

Though the UC will continue to participate in managing the laboratory through its membership in LANS, it will lose sole control over the labs when the new company takes over in June of next year, and will assume a background role as a parent organization. The bidding process was initiated in 2003 by then-secretary of energy Spencer Abraham in response to a series of management, accounting and security scandals at the laboratory.

“That money is your money, my money, the taxpayer’s money,” said Tom D’Agostino, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s acting deputy administrator for defense programs, who made the final decision on the contract award. “We are going to insist on excellent performance, and the contractor, its board of governors and its parent companies are going to assure that for us. “

“Paying those kinds of fees” D’Agostino continued, noting the high cost of the contract, “the contractor has to perform for us.  And that’s one of the key points of this new approach.”

Through the bidding process, the Department of Energy hoped to obtain a winning proposal that would apply better business practices to management and security at the labs.

“The proposal itself…tightened up the accountability lines significantly,” said D’Agostino. “It provides the federal overseers and the organization at the Los Alamos Site Office the opportunity to really manage and implement this contract in an effective way.”

The full details of the new contract will be made public in the coming days. But the contract bidding isn’t over for the UC. Next year, it will fight to retain control over Los Alamos’ sister institution, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in northern California.

Originally published December 21, 2005


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