5:15 p.m. UPDATE:
The governing board of the University of Texas System voted 4-3 Monday to authorize a proposal to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key unit in the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
It was a rare split vote for a board that normally is unanimous, especially on important matters. Nonetheless, the regents who voted against making a bid — Kevin Eltife, Janiece Longoria and Steve Hicks — all said they respected the others’ position. Regents Ernest Aliseda, David Beck, Jeff Hildebrand and Paul Foster voted in favor, while Chairwoan Sara Martinez Tucker did not vote.
Still, it was apparent that the supporters and opponents held sharply divergent views.
“I think it represents an unbelievable opportunity for the state of Texas, for the UT System and for UT-Austin, as well as the other system institutions,” Foster said.
Longoria said the safety and financial risks aren’t worth it, adding that operating a nuclear weapons lab is outside the system’s core mission and could even put the system’s endowment “at risk in a catastrophic event.”
The governing board of the 14-campus University of Texas System was expected on Monday to authorize a proposal to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
The UT System tried once before to have a hand in running Los Alamos, partnering with Lockheed Martin Corp. but losing out in 2005.
The regents, who are scheduled to meet by phone Monday afternoon, could also take action on a proposal to have the system participate in a research collaboration in Houston with the Texas A&M University System, Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Medical Center. The project, known as TMC3, would involve two UT System institutions, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Health Science Center at Houston.
When the UT System joined with Lockheed in the earlier bid to manage and operate Los Alamos, the system played second fiddle to the military contractor. Now, the system wants to play first fiddle, although it likely would line up industry and perhaps other university partners.
The UT regents had been expected to vote on a Los Alamos bid Nov. 9 but postponed the matter. Deputy Chancellor David Daniel said that afforded an opportunity to develop “more information.”