The University of California's governing board has given the 10-campus system approval to bid on a contract to manage the federal government's premier nuclear weapons facility.
The Board of Regents voted Thursday to allow the UC to enter a bid for running the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
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.
The current multibillion-dollar management contract expires in 2018.
UC was the lab's sole operator for decades and is currently part of a consortium running the lab.
The Regents said in a statement the UC is committed to upholding Los Alamos' tradition of scientific and technological excellence.