The University of Texas System is looking to add a new campus – in New Mexico. Earlier this week, the Board of Regents narrowly approved a bid to run the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The school joined 40 other entities hoping to manage the lab, which is known for developing nuclear weapons during World War II. The lab continues to manage some of the nation’s nuclear assets, and does significant research in the areas of cybersecurity and other technology fields.
Lindsay Ellis, higher education reporter for the Houston Chronicle, says the University of California System has managed Los Alamos since World War II. UC has come under fire in the past decade for management lapses, and in 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would accept bids from other organizations to manage the facility.
The UT System has bid to run the facility before. The difference now may be the presence of former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. Ellis says experts she spoke with are divided about whether Perry would be likely to favor a Texas-based bid to run Los Alamos over others.
“Bot UT and [Texas] A&M have expressed interest in managing Los Alamos,” she says. “A&M, for its part, which graduated Rick Perry, has said that it has not been in contact with the secretary over its potential proposal.”
In October, the A&M Board of Regents voted to explore making a bid to run the lab.
Ellis says reasons why a major university would want to run a nuclear weapons lab include service to the nation, and achieving a higher-profile role for themselves.
“I think that reputational benefit is pretty clear,” Ellis says, “and something that the UT regents were considering when they voted on Monday. It also could be a pretty lucrative contract. Los Alamos operates with a $2.5 billion budget this year and employs more than 11,000 people.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.