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With globalization and the spreading availability of technologies, nuclear proliferation challenges continue to grow and evolve. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory works to stem proliferation by providing scientific and technological solutions and guidance to counter emerging threats. Working with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and other government agencies, the Laboratory provides technical leadership to advance technologies that monitor and detect the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction worldwide, limit or prevent the spread of materials, and eliminate or secure inventories of nuclear materials and infrastructure usable for nuclear weapons.
In 2020, NNSA initiated the Nonproliferation Stewardship Program to ensure that foundational infrastructure, science, technology, and expertise in the Department of Energy (DOE) complex fully supports the U.S. government’s mission to combat nuclear proliferation now and in the future. Some capabilities and expertise necessary for the nonproliferation mission originated from experience with materials processing and enrichment activities no longer utilized domestically at production scale. This initiative addresses the critical challege of technical knowledge transfer from experts to next-generation scientists and nonproliferation experts.
With its multidisciplinary teams of nuclear scientists, analysts, chemists, biologists, engineers, computer scientists, and technicians, Lawrence Livermore is an ideal place to develop the tools and solutions to address this challenge. The article, The ACES in Our Hand, features the Laboratory’s contributions to the Adaptive Computing Environment and Simulations (ACES) project. Funded by Congress and managed by NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development (NA-22), ACES is the Laboratory’s largest nonproliferation project.
ACES is developing the computational tools, infrastructure, and subject matter expertise necessary for proliferation detection and includes three thrusts: modeling uranium isotope separation centrifuge cascades, creating a corresponding computational infrastructure, and training and sustaining an expert nonproliferation workforce. The Laboratory has been the leader for the last two decades in the modeling and simulation of plant-level enrichment, and with ACES, the Laboratory will be integrating advanced data analytics and machine learning to answer new, complex questions and quantify uncertainties.
The research highlights in this issue also showcase Livermore’s tool-building capabilities across a variety of fields to innovate and deliver solutions for challenging problems. As described in the article, Short Wavelengths Yield Big Dividends, the Laboratory has been a pioneer in optical lithography for decades. In the early 2000s, the extreme ultraviolet lithography team received two R&D 100 Awards for their work. Since that time, Lawrence Livermore researchers and their collaborators have made significant advancements in state-of-the-art, multilayer reflective optics for microchips and space exploration.
The Laboratory is one of the few places in the world that makes transparent ceramics more rugged and resistant to heat or corrosion than glass. These materials are ideal for scientific applications that require precision—particularly laser optics. The Livermore team also won an R&D 100 Award for their work on a gadolinium–lutetium–oxide transparent ceramic scintillator in 2016 and has continued to advance transparent ceramics. The research highlight, Additive Manufacturing Brings New Possibilities for Transparent Ceramics, details how the team recently leveraged additive manufacturing to control chemical composition and customize geometry—yielding transparent ceramics with unprecedented characteristics and enhancements.
The final research highlight, Expanded Capabilities and Opportunities for Virtual Beam Line Code, announces the launch of the next-generation of the Laboratory’s Virtual Beam Line (VBL) laser simulation code: VBL++. This code utilizes physics models developed and prototyped by laser physicists from the National Ignition Facility and Photon Science (NIF & PS) Principal Directorate to understand beam propagation and diffraction, nonlinear frequency conversion, and other effects. VBL++ will also integrate the Laboratory’s high-performance computing systems to generate high-resolution simulations and unparalleled spatial resolution. VBL++ is a true testament to successful collaboration between the Laboratory’s software engineers in the Computing Directorate and NIF & PS’s physicists.