LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- Despite a string of security lapses and allegations of fraud and mismanagement, the University of California was awarded the government contract yesterday to continue managing the Los Alamos laboratory.
Because of the scandals at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the government contract to run the nation's preeminent nuclear lab had been put out to bid this year for the first time in its 63-year history.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced that a partnership of the University of California and the engineering giant Bechtel Corp. had prevailed over a rival team made up of the University of Texas and the defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
The contract is for as much as $512 million over seven years, with a provision to extend it to 20 years.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of the nation's three chief installations responsible for maintaining the US nuclear arsenal and making weapons components. The lab also conducts research in a host of areas of national interest, including miniaturized technology, genetics, computing, the environment, and healthcare.
The lab has drawn criticism in recent years for security lapses, credit card abuses, theft of equipment, and mismanagement.
In 1999, Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was jailed amid an investigation into possible Chinese espionage. The case proved to be weak, and Lee pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information and was released with an apology from a federal judge.
Former lab investigator Glenn Walp, who was fired in 2002 after alleging a cover-up at the lab, said he was disappointed that UC-Bechtel won.
''It's a blue Christmas for America," he said.