Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The DOE Shuts Down the Labs

by STEFAN WRAY

While the Department of Energy (DOE) shuts down nuclear labs, and a Senator introduces a bill to end the University of California’s management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a plan is emerging for Texas and New Mexico universities to take over the beleaguered Los Alamos weapons lab.

In early July, Los Alamos lab officials in New Mexico revealed that computer disks containing classified information were missing. This has lead to unprecedented closure of DOE nuclear facilities nationwide to implement computer security measures.

Senator Wayne Allard, R-Colorado, last week introduced legislation to require the DOE to terminate its contract with the University of California and appoint an interim manager until a new contractor is selected. UC has managed Los Alamos since 1943.

Now a plan is being presented, in bits and pieces and as a new idea, for Texas and New Mexico universities to partner and run Los Alamos; but the plan has existed since the mid-1990s.

Last year, the DOE decided, to open to competition Los Alamos lab’s management contract. In February, the University of Texas announced possible interest. A number of corporations have also expressed their desire. Texas A&M only announced its interest last week.

UT officials have been coy. They’re willing to partner, but won’t say with whom. Following Texas A&M’s announcement, a UT vice chancellor told the Austin American Statesman there have been no talks between UT and Texas A&M about Los Alamos.

Texas A&M officials, however, began immediately speculating about partnerships with UT, the University of New Mexico, and other New Mexico universities.

The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported on a Texas A&M vice chancellor admitting that Texas A&M and University of Texas presidents have talked about forming a partnership to run the lab.

The Albuquerque Tribune reported that Texas A&M is serious about partnering with New Mexico’s universities, including New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, and the University of New Mexico.

None of this is new.

This Texas-New Mexico university partnership plan appeared in December 1995, when then UT Chancellor William Cunningham wrote the DOE and said a group of universities is interested “in ascertaining . . . the proper procedure whereby we may compete for the contract to operate [Los Alamos].” The proposed consortium included the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and New Mexico State University.

UT and Texas A&M nuclear weapons work goes back to 1993 when the two, with Texas Tech, created the Amarillo National Research Center for Plutonium to advise the DOE, the state of Texas, and the Pantex nuclear weapons plant.

Leading that consortium was Dale Klein, then a UT Austin mechanical engineering professor, and now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs.

In 1995 Klein became a UT associate vice chancellor just before the university notified the DOE of its interest in managing Los Alamos. Klein must have played a role in crafting this early Texas-New Mexico university plan. He likely maintains interest today.

The DOE did not compete the Los Alamos contract in the mid-1990s. Texas universities have had nine years to refine their plan.

Whether Klein and other Texas advocates in Washington have a hand in decisions next year on the lab’s management depends on the November election outcome. A Kerry victory will bring new leadership to the DOD, the DOE, and the National Nuclear Security Administration that has a decision-making power over future management.

Regardless of the election outcome, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, will continue to strongly support Texas universities. She will likely back this Texas-New Mexico university partnership plan to run Los Alamos.

Senator Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, may also support this partnership. Although Domenici doesn’t support Sen. Allard’s bill to terminate the University of California’s contract, he has become critical of UC’s management.

The security crisis at the Los Alamos National Laboratory is providing those with long-term interests in its management with an opportunity. The timing couldn’t be better.

By advancing the Texas-New Mexico partnership plan in a piece meal fashion the universities are generating mystique about cooperation between “rival” Texas institutions. More attention is being paid to which universities will work together, rather than to whether universities should be developing nuclear weapons.

The University of Texas should stop pretending it doesn’t know what it’s doing and admit it’s been talking to Texas A&M about Los Alamos for a long time.

As a nation we should ask whether we still need to research, develop, and produce nuclear weapons, and whether it’s a university’s business to do so.

STEFAN WRAY, MA, is a University of Texas graduate, activist, writer, and filmmaker in Austin, Texas and as Co-Director of Iconmedia, is working on a documentary about the Los Alamos National Laboratory, called The WMDs Are In New Mexico. He works with UTNukeFree.org. He can be reached at: stefwray@io.com

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]