The University of Texas is among the educational and business institutions considering bids to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The university system's regents recently approved spending up to $4.5 million to prepare a bid to run the northern New Mexico facility.
The birthplace of the atomic bomb and still one of the nation's premier nuclear research facilities, the lab has struggled in recent years with a string of safety lapses involving the handling of plutonium and radioactive waste.
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The current multibillion-dollar management contract expires in 2018. It was first announced in late 2015 that Los Alamos National Security LLC would be losing the contract since it failed to earn high performance reviews.
Los Alamos National Security's partners include the University of California and Bechtel National Inc. Both entities have expressed interest in bidding for the new contract.