SANTA FE – Monday was the day for bidders to submit their proposals for running Los Alamos National Laboratory starting in October 2018 but no list of which entities entered the competition was released.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency that oversees the nation’s weapons labs, did not provide information on the bidders.
The University of California, part of the private consortium that currently runs LANL and which before 2006 had run the lab since World War II on its own, did acknowledge that it submitted a proposal. The UCal regents voted in November to compete for the new contract.
Over the weekend, the Austin American Statesman reported that UCal would partner with Texas A&M University. The Texas school’s regents also previously voted to develop a bid for $2.2 billion annual LANL contract.
But a Texas A&M spokesperson who took a call from the Journal did not call back with a comment. A UCal representative said, “We aren’t confirming or discussing any of our bid partners at this time.”
The University of Texas board also has authorized submission of a LANL management proposal and authorized spending $4.5 million on the effort. A spokesperson there also did not call back when asked to confirm whether UT had actually submitted a bid or had partners in making a proposal.
The current lab operator is Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), which won the contract in the first-ever open competition and took over 11 years ago. In addition to UCal, the other entities in the LANS consortium are Bechtel, BWXT Government Group, Inc., and URS, an AECOM company.
Bechtel’s Fred deSousa said Monday, “We won’t be commenting on the procurement process right now. We’re concentrating on managing the Lab safely and efficiently as part of the LANS team.”
LANS failed to get a contract extension beyond September 2018 because of inadequate performance reviews from the federal government in recent years, in particular after a drum of radioactive waste improperly packed at Los Alamos burst at the nation’s only nuclear waste storage facility at Carlsbad in 2014, shutting the facility down.
The federal Department of Energy decided to put the contract out for bids for the first time ever in 2005 after an earlier series of mishaps under UCal, including missing disks of classified information and a property management scandal that led to criminal charges against two lab officials.
Officials at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Tech both said Monday that the schools had agreed to be equally available to all bidders in the LANL competition.
“UNM has a strong history of research and academic collaboration with LANL, and we look forward to continuing that partnership and working with the new leadership team,” said Joe Cecchi, senior advisor to the UNM president for National Laboratory Relations.
No comment was available from New Mexico State University.