Two top teams of contractors are now officially bidding to run Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The $2.2-billion-a-year lab has weathered a string of safety and management problems in recent years, prompting congressional overseers in 2003 to force the Department of Energy (DOE) to put the lab up for bids for the first time (ScienceNOW, 30 April, 2003). The University of California (UC) has run the storied facility ever since it opened in 1943.
As expected, the top teams submitting bids yesterday were a partnership between UC and facilities contractor Bechtel of San Francisco, California, and a coalition headed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas.
Lockheed announced that the University of Texas component of its coalition will include a consortium of university partners including the University of Michigan and several other Texas schools, added to bolster the team's academic credentials. A number of weapons scientists had expressed fears that giving control of the lab to a corporate-minded group could put profit before science or change the atmosphere. Others, including powerful critics on Capitol Hill, say that problems show UC should be replaced with more responsible managers.
"I have every confidence we can help the outstanding people at Los Alamos return their laboratory to its rightful place as the nation's and the world's premier science laboratory," said Lockheed team leader Paul Robinson, former director of Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. Rounding out the Lockheed team are firms CH2M Hill of Englewood, Colorado, and Fluor of Aliso Viejo, California, specialists in plutonium and facilities management, respectively.
UC's team reflects a desire to bolster the university's management heft. The university has added corporate contractors BWX Technologies of Lynchburg, Virginia, and Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho. Heading the team is Michael Anastasio, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
A partnership between two antinuclear organizations, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and Tri Valley CAREs of Livermore, California, also bid for the lab, though they are considered a long shot. Even more groups may have bid, as DOE does not have to release the names of bidders. Oral presentations to DOE are expected in August with a decision by the department expected by 1 December.
Department of Energy contract competition page