The U.S. Dept. of Energy announced Tuesday that it will renew the University of California’s $2.3 billion Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory management contract for five years.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) ruling grants the UC control over the labs from June 1, 2005 to May 31, 2010. According to a DOE press release, the decision is the result of the first ever competition for contract renewal of a federal lab, following a Request for Proposals from the DOE on Dec. 15, 2004. The Regents of the University of California was the only organization to submit a proposal for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

In a statement issued by the Regents, UC President Robert C. Dynes said he was pleased with the DOE’s decision and said he thinks the LBNL is an example of the productivity which can occur when universities and the federal government work together in scientific research.

“Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is about breathing life into ideas, and bringing researchers together in a rich interdisciplinary environment to solve the scientific and technological challenges facing our nation and the world,” Dynes said. “I am very happy that Berkeley Laboratory will continue to grow and prosper under the auspices and stewardship of the University of California.”

Michael Waldron, DOE deputy director for public affairs, said he is confident that renewing the UC’s contract was the right decision.

“The Department of Energy is confident in awarding this contract and knows UC will continue its outstanding work in running the lab,” Waldron said.

The LBNL has been under UC control since 1931 and has hosted various types of research delving into topics such as nanoscience and advanced materials, life sciences, computer engineering, physics, cosmology and energy, and earth sciences. The UC Regents were forced to reapply for management of the lab after Congress passed legislation in 2003 requiring that all contracts awarded before 1953 be reopened for competitive management bids.

A number of provisions have been made to the contract to provide performance incentives, Waldron said. He said the DOE could opt to extend the contract for an additional 20 years if LBNL meets the performance criteria developed by the department. So far, UC has met these requirements, he said.

“When you look at their work and you see the 10 Nobel Prize scientists that have worked there, I think it’s clear the significant contribution they have made to the United States and the global scientific community,” Waldron said.

UC also manages two other laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Livermore National Laboratory. Waldron said he could not discuss the status of any ongoing bids for these laboratories.