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Friday, October 27, 2017

UT and A&M plan to not team up together on LANL bid

Texas A&M University System regents last week authorized an administrator to explore the development of a proposal to manage and operate the laboratory, the facility responsible for the safety and reliability of the country’s nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Department of Energy – headed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a prominent Texas A&M University alumnus – issued an official request for proposals on Wednesday. Bids are due on Dec. 11. (A&M said this week it had not contacted Perry about the competition.)

Both systems said they’d be open to partnering with academic and business entities – but it appears unlikely that they’ll team up for the bid.

UT Vice Chancellor David Daniel said in a statement this week that UT could “not identify a role” for the A&M system had "elected not to partner with them on Los Alamos.”

He acknowledged, however, that UT is working out “a number of details” still.

Some lab observers say even the best new management won't be able to rectify the facility's issues, including what they call a culture of secrecy that prevents accountability.

The complex facility has seen high-profile safety and security concerns over several decades, including reports of missing property and fraud.

The company had not always resolved "significant and long-standing nuclear safety deficiencies," according to a DOE memo from July 2015. When the company could not address safety concerns, it had to suspend some activities between 2013 and 2015.
That memo also said LANS struggled to implement multiple critical nuclear safety management requirements.

Later that year, officials announced that Los Alamos' contract would not be extended after low performance, the Associated Press reported.

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