Fate of nuke lab bids re­vealed soon

UT, A&M, part­ners vie to run Los Alamos site; cost could be $23B.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Ralph K.M. Hau­r­witz rhau­r­witz@states­man.com Los Alamos

The Univer­sity of Texas Sys­tem and the Texas A&M Univer­sity Sys­tem will learn by the end of May, if not sooner, the out­come of their com­pet­ing bids to op­er­ate a ma­jor fed­eral nu­clear weapons lab­o­ra­tory.

The UT Sys­tem has at least one undis­closed cor­po­rate part­ner in its pro­posal to run Los Alamos Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory in New Mex­ico. The A&M Sys­tem is part­nered with the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Sys­tem and likely with one or more com­pa­nies.

Pur­due Univer­sity in In­di­ana has con­firmed that it also sub­mit­ted a bid, and news re­ports say it has teamed with San Fran­cisco-based en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion com­pany Bech­tel Corp.

The lab’s cur­rent op­er­a­tor is Los Alamos Na­tional Se­cu­rity LLC, a pri­vate con­sor­tium of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Bech­tel, BWXT Govern­ment Group Inc. and the URS unit of en­gi­neer­ing de­sign firm AECOM. The Na­tional Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion sig­naled in late 2015 that the group would lose its con­tract, which ex­pires at the end of Septem­ber, be­cause it failed to earn high enough per­for­mance re­views.

The se­cu­rity ad­min­is­tra­tion, a semi-au­tonomous arm of the U.S. En­ergy De­part­ment, es­ti­mates the cost of run­ning the lab for 10 years at more than $23 bil­lion. Bid­ders were re­quired to pro­pose fixed and award fees that could amount to mil­lions of dol­lars a year. The ad­min­is­tra­tion says the govern­ment “is more con­cerned with ob­tain­ing a su­pe­rior tech­ni­cal and man­age­ment pro­posal than mak­ing an award at the low­est eval­u­ated cost/price.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials have not said ex­actly when they will an­nounce the win­ning team. How­ever, the govern­ment said in a ques­tion-and-an­swer doc­u­ment that it “is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing a con­tract is awarded in time to al­low a four month tran­si­tion be­fore the cur­rent con­tract ex­pires on Septem­ber 30, 2018.” That would mean a con­tract would have to be awarded by the end of May.

Se­crecy has shrouded much of the bid­ding and re­view process. There could be other bid­ders that have not sur­faced pub­licly, and the govern­ment has not dis­closed the iden­ti­ties of any bid­ders.

UT Sys­tem of­fi­cials have said they es­tab­lished a lim­ited li­a­bil­ity com­pany and a cor­po­ra­tion

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