Texas A&M Wants to Team With the University of Texas to Run a National Nuclear Lab

They’re trying to win a $3 billion contract to co-manage Sandia National Laboratories.

By Alexandra HartMay 25, 2016 2:54 pm,

Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin may have put their old feud to bed. Not on the football field mind you – but when the pot at the end of the rainbow is nearly $3 billion a year, maybe it’s time to let bygones be bygones.

The two schools are vying for a contract to co-manage Sandia National Laboratories, one of three laboratories responsible for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Dr. Kathy Banks, vice chancellor of engineering for the Texas A&M system, says this prospective arrangement is similar to one already in place at the University of California, which partners with Los Alamos National Laboratories. But what does it mean to manage a nuclear lab when nuclear weapons are part of an older era of national defense?

“Certainly, if nuclear weapons are needed we want to make sure that they’re operable,” Banks says. “These weapons were designed many, many years ago, so new technology will allow us to ensure that the capabilities are there if needed. And in addition, Sandia researchers conduct research on many other areas: energy, security, materials.”

Banks says there are several advantages to the universities outside of simple revenue – like the ability to collaborate with Department of Energy scientists and a chance for students to work in a nationally recognized research lab.

“This type of collaboration gives our students the opportunity to have hands-on experience in a national lab,” Banks says. “That isn’t something they would have the opportunity to do every day.”