Texas A&M submits LANL bid

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There are now three known bidders for operating contract

By Tris DeRoma

Texas A&M University submitted a bid for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s management and operations contract, bringing the total known number of official bidders  to three.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of the university’s Office of Federal Relations, A. Scott Sudduth, said so during a breakfast meeting with members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Friday. One fact Sudduth wouldn’t reveal is who the university’s partners are.

“There’s only one question that I can think of that I’m not prepared to answer, and that’s who’s on our team,” Sudduth said. “We are eager to come to the community with the members of our team and make a formal announcement, as soon as we can get the principal members of our team together.”

He said one of the factors that helped Texas A & M decide to make a bid for the contract is the university’s nuclear engineering program.

“What you may not know is that Texas A & M  has been a leader in the field of nuclear engineering for many decades,” Sudduth said. “There are many schools around the country that have had nuclear engineering programs, and indeed, many still do today. But as interest in industry and interest throughout the country has waned toward nuclear power, many of those programs have gone away. We have supported our program through thick and thin. It’s now the largest nuclear engineering program in the country and one of the oldest.”

Sudduth also said Texas A & M’s faculty is routinely involved with operations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which includes its main mission, maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

“From the standpoint of Los Alamos, not only have we been a tremendous pipeline source of graduates that go to work at this lab, but we have many of our faculty routinely involved in research and collaboration with the lab as we speak… we’re no stranger to the mission.”

Regional Coalition Executive Director Andrea Romeo set up the meeting to give members of the coalition an opportunity to gauge what level of community commitment Texas A & M would have if it was the winning bidder.

Sudduth and Texas A & M Engineering Experiment Station Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives L. Diane Hurtado assured Coalition members they would be an involved partner in the region.

At the breakfast, Sudduth received a two-page document from the coalition that details what the coalition would like to see from the next owner of LANL’s management and operations contract.

The document covered topics as direct community investment, education, and community giving. Though the winning bidder won’t be announced until sometime early next year, Sudduth was glad to meet with Romero and the rest of the team. He said if they are the winning bidder, they want to immediately show that community commitment would be a priority.

“We’re here because our team understands the symbiotic relationship that exists between the community and this lab,” Sudduth said. “We want to be prepared to hit the ground running during the transition phase.”
Los Alamos County Council Chairman David Izraelevitz saw the breakfast meeting and other discussions Coalition partners had with other bidders this month as a good sign that community commitment will continue to be a priority with the winning bidder.

“We have seen the bidders really go out of their way  to meet with the community,” Izraelevitz said. “I think the message that the Regional Coalition, individual governments and community members have portrayed is that it’s important to engage the community, that it makes their proposals stronger.”

Other bidders that have publicly come forward are University of California and the University of Texas System.