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UC will bid on Los Alamos lab operating contract

The University of California’s governing board has given the 10-campus system approval to bid on a contract to manage the federal government’s premier nuclear weapons facility.

The Board of Regents voted Thursday to allow the UC to enter a bid for running the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The birthplace of the atomic bomb and still one of the nation’s premier nuclear research facilities, the lab has struggled in recent years with a string of safety lapses involving the handling of plutonium and radioactive waste.

The current multibillion-dollar management contract expires in 2018.

UC. by itself, formerly ran LANL for decades until 2006, when the contract was put out for competitive bidding for the first time since the lab was created during World War II’s Manhattan Project.

The university now is part of private consortium with the Bechtel corporation and two other companies that won the 2006 contract. The U.S. Department of Energy decided to rebid the contract after the consortium, Los Alamos National Security LLC, failed to get adequate performance reviews in recent years.

Texas A&M and the University of Texas also have taken steps towards making bids to run the Los Alamos lab.

Journal North editor Mark Oswald contributed to this report.