LAWRENCE Livermore is actively involved in developing many cutting-edge computational and experimental tools to help assure that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable. But our responsibilities don't stop there. Because the components of nuclear weapons are extremely complex, we can only achieve an in-depth understanding of the issues associated with these systems through a watchful and constant study of them. We must use our historical data, traditional scientific techniques, and world-class facilities just as much as new technologies to ensure that we have properly addressed existing issues and anticipated future ones.|
Livermore originally created Site 300 to test high explosives that are used in nuclear weapons. These are the highly energetic materials that provide the energy to drive a nuclear weapon's fissionable material to criticality. In the beginning, we tested just the explosives for nuclear devices. Our test facilities have traditionally been dedicated to studying explosives performance and safety with outdoor tests that are remotely controlled. (Before the testing ban that began in 1992, nuclear weapons were tested underground at the Nevada Test Site some 80 miles north of Las Vegas.) Later, we began developing and testing new types of explosives, more reliable than other available materials. Eventually, we added explosives testing for advanced conventional weapons to our capabilities.
Today, with the increased need for data to validate computer models and for more diagnostic information about every explosion we conduct, Site 300's role has grown more complex as well. The article describes the range of capabilities we use to support scientific, computational, and engineering activities at Livermore.
Some of our capabilities at Site 300 include formulating, machining, and testing explosives in both small and large quantities; studying the science of high-explosives performance; inspecting materials radiographically for defects such as cracks and voids; using ultrafast electro-optical imaging of projectiles; and performing impact testing with our 30-meter drop tower. Our recently upgraded Flash X-Ray (FXR) machine is the cornerstone diagnostic in the most versatile and complete explosives testing facility in the world. Soon, in the same area, construction will begin on the Contained Firing Facility, a 2,700-square-meter indoor explosives testing facility. The containment addition will include a reinforced firing chamber, a support staging area, and additional diagnostic space for testing up to 60 kilograms of explosives materials. Ever thinking about future environmental requirements and the neighbors of Site 300, we have designed the Contained Firing Facility to reduce environmental emissions such as hazardous waste, noise, and blast pressures.
Site manager Milt Grissom points out in the article that Site 300 is busier than ever with work from many areas of the Department of Energy. In addition to the continuing traditional work on high explosives, tests are providing data for the Laboratory's counterterrorism activities. And today the site is well positioned to conduct explosives testing that can benefit the aircraft, mining, oil exploration, and construction industries.