Back to top
As we celebrate the Laboratory’s 70th anniversary, it is an excellent time to appreciate the incredible contributions we are currently making to support the U.S. nuclear deterrent and to strengthen U.S. security through the development and application of world-class science and technology. Our adversaries are developing and deploying new technologies and capabilities that underscore the need for the United States to aggressively execute its stockpile modernization efforts as well as re-establish its production infrastructure for all nuclear weapon components.
Building on the design, reuse, and manufacturing innovations identified by the W80-4 Life-Extension Program, the W87-1 Modification Program, will produce the first 100 percent newly manufactured nuclear warhead since the end of nuclear testing in 1992. It will replace the aging W78 warhead, meet military requirements, and improve safety and security. As a lead design agency for these two systems, we are finding that we are also transforming the Nuclear Security Enterprise in important, lasting ways.
The changes we are making to the W87-1 are possible due to the unique, diverse tools of science-based stockpile stewardship, allowing the new warhead to be confidently certified without nuclear testing. We are using high-performance computing and calculations in innovative ways and will be among the first to leverage our new exascale supercomputer, El Capitan. Recent results from the National Ignition Facility promise to increase the fidelity of extreme-condition experiments to provide certification data. We are also pursuing innovative, transformational partnerships across the Nuclear Security Enterprise to introduce new materials, manufacturing techniques, and processes to meet W87-1 and future stockpile systems requirements.
The three research highlights in this issue examine how scientists and engineers are also utilizing the Laboratory’s unique, diverse tools to produce unprecedented findings, generate novel materials, and explore the potential impacts of emergent technologies.
As part of the National Ignition Facility Discovery Science Program, scientists have performed a series of 12 experiments over the past three years to understand the properties of iron under the extreme conditions in the core of massive terrestrial planets. Previous theoretical predictions and extrapolations from relatively low-pressure data generated in laboratory settings were used to predict iron properties at extreme conditions. The highlight Iron under Extremes describes how this recent set of experiments presented the first opportunity to collect data on melting and crystallization of molten iron in the extreme conditions that approximate those at planetary cores.
The highlight 3D-Printed Microbes Enhance Biomaterials describes a three-year exploratory research project funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program that shows, for the first time, that 3D biomaterials with embedded microbes can be printed using additive-manufacturing techniques. The Laboratory’s combination of bioengineers possessing unique understanding of bacteria and microbiology and access to sophisticated 3D-printing systems make the Laboratory one of the few places capable of advancing this technological breakthrough with a range of potential applications, including remediating hydrocarbons, recovering critical metals, and serving as chemical biosensors.
Finally, the Laboratory’s Center for Global Security Research (CGSR), with its exceptional ability to tackle questions at the intersection of technology, national security, and public policy. has positioned Livermore to take a lead role in creating and developing the emerging field of strategic latency—the inherent potential for technologies to bring about significant shifts in the military and/or economic balance of power. As described in the highlight Deterrence through Strategic Latency, CGSR has brought together a diverse stakeholder community to explore how emerging technologies will affect national security and transform our understanding of deterrence 10 to 20 years from now.
Delivering on the W87-1 and making lasting transformation for the enterprise will require the expertise and extraordinary dedication of our workforce. Their efforts inspire me to do all I can to help enable the changes that are necessary to deliver the nation’s nuclear deterrent and science and technology on a mission for today and the future.