Two columns recently appeared defending the UC’s management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory: “A Constructive Coalition” from Joshua Zide, (Daily Nexus, Oct. 18) and “UC a Better Candidate than Big Business for Los Alamos” from Matt Gazulis (Daily Nexus, Oct 18). Both had interesting takes on UC’s relationship with LANL, and although Zide premised his as a sober correction to the “fear-mongering of a minority who hasn’t thoroughly researched an issue” neither were factually correct or historically informed.
Zide claims that “weapons technologies are only a small part of the research activities at Los Alamos.” I guess Zide hasn’t actually looked at the budget for Los Alamos (if he or anyone else would like to it’s on the web at http://www.mbe.doe.gov/budget/05budget/index.htm). Los Alamos’s 2005 budget includes $1.4 billion dollars for “weapons activities” out of a total budget of $1.7 billion – that’s 82 percent of the lab’s total federal budget dedicated to the research and design of nuclear warheads. How is this small?
Los Alamos is a nuclear warhead design lab. There might be other kinds of science going on there, but it is an extreme minority that could easily be shifted to UC campuses and other labs if Los Alamos were to be shut down, or if UC were to exit as manager.
But what about the UC’s relationship with Los Alamos? Should UC get out? Gazulis says he’s inclined to take comfort in the devil he knows – UC – over the devil he doesn’t know – a private corporation. I’m of the opinion that we should never take comfort in the devil, whether we know him or not. But I would also ask people who share Gazulis’s opinion: Do you really know the UC? Think the UC is enlightened? Think the UC – its faculty, staff, and students – have ever had any say over what goes on in Los Alamos? The historical record speaks for itself. The University doesn’t “manage” Los Alamos, the UC Regents do, and their anti-democratic nuclear fiefdom in the high desert of New Mexico has been 62 years of secrecy multiplied by the more than $7 trillion spent on nuclear weapons by our government.
The Regents have constituted a limited liability corporation in partnership with Bechtel Corporation to bid for Los Alamos. This pumped-up military-industrial-university partnership is completely beyond the bounds of faculty, staff or student influence, and is poised to produce a new generation of nuclear weapons.
Think you know the devil? Think again.
Darwin Bondgraham is a UCSB graduate student in sociology.