Texas A&M University is now in charge of ensuring that the nation’s nuclear arsenal is functional. Still, system chancellor John Sharp told Texas Monthly, “God help us if you ever have to push the red button, and they go off.” Sharp spoke with Texas Monthly Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview regarding A&M’s recently won stewardship of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “This (Los Alamos) is the granddaddy of all labs. This is where it all started,” Sharp said.

Fellow Aggie and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced on June 8 that the U.S. Department of Energy was awarding Texas A&M a $2.5 billion contract to manage the historic—some would say infamous—Los Alamos facility, where the original atomic bomb was developed under the code name the Manhattan Project during World War II. A&M will be the managing facility along with the University of California system and a group called Battelle. Their primary mission: to ensure that the nation’s nuclear arsenal is ready if it is ever needed. The challenge, Sharp said, is that in 1992, the United States banned further underground testing of nuclear bombs, so Los Alamos is in charge of maintaining the country’s stockpile of nuclear weapons without being allowed to test them.

“This is the granddaddy of all labs.”

Chancellor John Sharp

Sharp’s discussion with Texas Monthly included the man who will oversee Los Alamos: Dr. Thom Mason, formerly the director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Mason is the president and CEO of Triad National Security, which is the name of the consortium that will manage Los Alamos. Mason compared his mission at Los Alamos to building a Boeing 747, storing it in a hangar for thirty years without using it, and certifying that it will fly when you need it.

Engineers are left to develop complex computer modeling and other safeguards, which Sharp said fits perfectly with the mission of the A&M engineering school. See the full interview here: