An overwhelming number of University of California professors have indicated that they want the university to compete for the management of Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Los Alamos National Lab, according to the results of a faculty poll released Wednesday to the UC Board of Regents.
Of the 3,271 faculty who responded to the poll, 67 percent favored a bid, 21 percent opposed, and 13 percent took no position. Roughly nine percent favored bidding for Livermore, but not Los Alamos.
The university has managed the two labs for more than 60 years, but after recent management scandals, President George W. Bush signed legislation mandating the Department of Energy to hold a competition to operate the laboratories. The two labs’ primary mission is the stewardship of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile as well as doing both classified and nonclassified research in the area of such weapons.
A third laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab above the UC campus, will also go out to bid this summer, but since the laboratory conducts nearly no classified research, it was not considered controversial and not included in the poll.
A 1996 survey found 61 percent of the faculty in favor of retaining the labs and a 1990 survey found 36 percent in support.
“The UC faculty has now given a clear message to the regents and the Department of Energy about our desire to retain the labs within UC,” said Vice Chair of the UC Academic Senate George Blumenthal in a prepared statement.
For those who were in favor of bidding for the lab contracts, their primary reasons for support included the quality and national benefits of the unclassified research and the research collaborations that the labs have with faculty and students. Those opposed cited incompatible missions of the labs and the University of California, as well as concern that UC’s name and reputation are devalued by being associated with the controversial nuclear labs.