FOR four decades, the excellence of DOE's three defense laboratories-Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia-has provided the assurance that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile was safe and reliable. This assurance was provided by the knowledge we gained from nuclear testing and by developing new weapons that responded to new defense requirements. Even though nuclear testing has ceased, no new weapons are being designed or developed, and the stockpile of nuclear weapons is being reduced in accordance with the START I treaty and START II agreement, we must continue to ensure that the nation's stockpile is safe and reliable. This is a very challenging task.
These events led President Clinton in August 1995 to reaffirm that the continued vitality of the three nuclear weapons laboratories is essential for meeting the challenge of ensuring the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapon stockpile by other means.
The DOE responded to this challenge with the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (SSMP). This program specifies a science-based approach, whose goal is to keep the stockpile safe and reliable by replacing weapons development and nuclear testing with weapons life extension and with intensive computational and experimental research that provides a fundamental understanding of all elements of nuclear weapons safety, performance, and maintenance.
Today national security is a principal integrating theme of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, with stockpile stewardship its major element. Livermore's role in the overall program is described in the article beginning on p. 6. A wide spectrum of activities is being integrated strategically and tactically within the Laboratory, requiring an unprecedented application of our teamwork. We are coordinating these endeavors through LLNL's Council on National Security, whose members are the Associate Directors of all of our major national security directorates, comprising more than half of the assets of the Laboratory.
We should not underestimate the risks involved in science-based stockpile stewardship without nuclear testing. Sidney Drell, the chairman of the University of California President's Council on the National Laboratories, in describing SSMP as a major challenge for the Laboratories, said, "The Cold War may be over, but the weapons laboratories still face a tough challenge to maintain confidence in our enduring nuclear deterrent as safe and reliable as it shrinks in size and ages."
At this point in history, DOE's three Defense Programs laboratories have committed to an enormous undertaking: to make their best effort to safely and reliably maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing. There are risks involved in this challenging undertaking as well. Responding to the challenge requires virtually every part of the Laboratory to apply our can-do culture to a fundamental system change. This means we will be evolving rapidly and efficiently from the former underground-test-based culture of new weapon development to the science-based culture of stockpile stewardship. It is our job now to develop the highest quality stockpile certification process possible, based on high-quality and innovative scientific and engineering techniques including advanced computer modeling, aboveground experiments, advanced device surveillance, and advanced remanufacturing of weapon parts.
We believe our well-trained nuclear weapon experts are up to this challenge. Our hope is that future generations of weapons scientists, even though they may never have experienced a nuclear test, will be able to assure the citizens of our country that the nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, and reliable.
Livermore's new course
C. Bruce Tarter, Director, LLNL
"Today I am announcing my decision to negotiate a true zero-yield comprehensive test ban. . . . The United States will now insist on a test ban that prohibits any nuclear weapons test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion. . . . I am today directing the establishment of a new annual reporting and certification requirement that will ensure that our nuclear weapons remain safe and reliable under a comprehensive test ban."
Press Conference, August 11, 1995
"I am assured by the Secretary of Energy and directors of our nuclear labs that we can meet the challenge of maintaining our nuclear deterrent under a CTB [Comprehensive Test Ban] through a science-based stockpile stewardship program without nuclear testing."
President Clinton in a statement read by Robert Bell,
Press Conference, August 11, 1995
With these words last summer, the President of the United States charted a new course for Lawrence Livermore and DOE's other two Defense Programs laboratories. This course is the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (SSMP), whose goal is for computational and experimental research to provide the fundamental understanding that will enable us to predict in detail-without the benefits of nuclear testing-the complex nonlinear performance of nuclear weapons.|
At Lawrence Livermore, we all know what an enormous challenge this presents. This undertaking is clearly not risk-free. At the same time, however, the SSMP offers an unprecedented opportunity for Livermore to serve the nation with our scientific and technological excellence.
I believe that our scientists and engineers are up to this challenge and that, with adequate support and close teamwork, our people will successfully carry the U.S. stockpile, secure and reliable, into the 21st century. It is an enormous responsibility. As we now unfold LLNL's SSMP roadmap involving significant changes in our national security mission, I am depending upon all Laboratory employees to accept the SSMP challenge and apply to it their characteristic skill, determination, and enthusiasm.