Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The DOE Shuts Down the Labs

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:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail