Saturday, January 22, 2005

UC handshakes with mystery LANL partner

Anonymous sent me this:

The rumor is that UC will partner with Bechtel. I don't know if that will be possible given that Bechtel is an "Integrated Contractor" for operation of the Nevada Test Site.

Los Alamos Monitor
Saturday, January 22, 2005

Headline News
UC handshakes with mystery LANL partner

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

At a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents Thursday, Vice President for Laboratory Management Robert Foley said talks with potential industrial partners for the Los Alamos National Laboratory contract had gone well.

"We have signed nothing. We have agreed to nothing. We have handshaked," he said.

Foley told the regents that the matter was now under preparation by university legal staff, but that he hoped to formalize a team in time for the submission of proposals.

A Request for Proposal for the management contract for LANL is supposed to be issued no earlier than Feb. 15, after which bidders would have 60 days to prepare proposals.

"NNSA wants to award by July 1," he said. "We'll see."

Because of the competitive aspects of the bidding, Foley said, the university does not plan to announce any partners until the award is made, "or at the earliest after submitting a proposal."

A draft RFP was issued on Dec. 1 last year. A period of public comment, after a two-week extension, expires today.

The Source Evaluation Board, headed by Tyler Przybylek, conducted a site visit and a pre-bid conference for interested parties in December. Przybylek also discussed employee concerns about benefits and pensions at a special meeting in Los Alamos last Sunday.

A number of students and some faculty members used brief moments of time for public comments to advise the board against continuing management of nuclear weapons laboratories.

During the committee meeting the regents heard a speech from Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), who encouraged participating in the competition and delivered an endorsement of a UC bid from the New Mexico legislature.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made a similar personal appeal at the regents' last meeting.

While UC officials continued to refrain from affirming their intention to bid on the LANL contract, awaiting the final RFP, the board of regents did decide Thursday to compete for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

UC has managed LBNL since 1931, more than a decade longer than LANL, without previous competition. Recent news articles have suggested that there may be no other competitors for the Berkeley lab.

Chris Herrington, UC spokesman, said the board voted unanimously to proceed with the LBNL bid which is due Feb. 9.

A question arose during the discussion on whether the regents should decide one laboratory at a time, for regents who might want to bid on all three or none of the DOE laboratories managed by the university,

Herrington said the question of process was decided prior to the vote.

"They are three distinct competitions, to be taken up as individual decisions based on the RFP and issues at the time," he said.

The regents' next meeting is March 16-17 in Los Angeles, about a month before the final proposals might be due for the Los Alamos contract.

"We are working aggressively here in terms of preparations," should the regents give the go-ahead, Herrington said.

Why Us, Why Now?
I've thought quite a bit about why LANL is in the current situation. There is bad management at the top, UC is paying no attention, DOE/NNSA are taking pot shots, and the employees are being abused. It seems to me, that if LANL were truly essential for national security, we would be getting much more attention from the Federal govt and UC. However, the reverse is true. The only thing that makes any sense to me is that we've become obsolete. Our nation does not need a nuclear laboratory to design more weapons. The era of nuclear weapons development is over and we haven't moved on. It feels like I'm working in a "buggy whip" factory after the horseless carriage was invented. Our product is no longer needed. How long do we keep pretending?
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