UC Faculty Back Bid for Two Weapons Labs

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1227
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1227c

Faculty support for the University of California's (UC's) management of two nuclear weapons laboratories is growing. A poll of 3271 UC faculty members released last week found that 67% favored having the university system enter a pending competition for contracts to manage the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. That reverses a similar 1990 poll, in which 64% opposed continued management of the labs, which UC has run for 60 years.

The new poll, conducted by the academic senate, did identify some apprehension. Three-quarters of the faculty expressed concerns about plans to build plutonium “pits”—the heart of nuclear weapons—at Los Alamos. “Clearly, even those faculty supportive of the labs find weapons-component manufacturing a bitter pill to swallow,” said astronomer George Blumenthal, vice chair of the senate body.

Meanwhile, a U.S. National Research Council panel on laboratory contracting said earlier this month that a single government committee overseeing a simultaneous competition of both contracts was the best way to pick a contractor “most likely to maintain the coordination between the labs.” Last November, a DOE advisory panel came to the opposite conclusion, saying a double competition might be too much to pull off for the department and interested bidders. A decision is expected later this year.

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