in the News
C. Bruce Tarter
Field Detection of
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
of Making History, Making a Difference
THE world was a dangerous
place in 1952Stalin was in power, the Cold War raged, U.S.
troops were fighting in Korea, and the Soviet Union had exploded
an atomic bomb years ahead of most expectations. National leaders
recognized the need to accelerate the design and development of
nuclear weapons, and to that end, a branch of the University of
California Radiation Laboratory opened at the deactivated Naval
Air Station in Livermore, California, on September 2, 1952. It was
a modest beginning nearly 50 years ago. Now part of the Department
of Energys National Nuclear Security Administration, Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory is a national asset. It provides for
the nations security through activities to maintain the U.S.
nuclear weapons stockpile and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear
and other weapons of mass destruction.
The world has changed considerably
in 50 years, and so has the Laboratory. The research and development
capabilities presently at Livermore and necessary for our national
security mission were unimaginable in 1952: computers that perform
trillions of operations per second, the ability to design and engineer
materials at the atomic level, the means of detecting one out of
a quadrillion atoms, and a laser under construction that offers
the promise of nuclear fusion in a laboratory setting. As a beneficiary,
a contributor, and a driver, we have been fully engaged in the postWorld
War II technological revolution.
many research and development successes for national security have
been significant, as have our contributions to meeting enduring
national needs in energy, environment, biology, and biotechnology.
Our 50th anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on those
achievements. Science & Technology Review will publish a series
of articles throughout 2002, each highlighting a specific aspect
of the Laboratorys work. They will reflect on our accomplishmentsmaking
history, making a differenceand our course for the future.
Some articles will focus on major programmatic successes, others
will feature the scientific or technical advances made at Livermore
that have furthered the programmatic achievements. All have a common
theme: a Laboratory with an essential and compelling core mission
and success in solving important and difficult problems.
first article in this series deals, appropriately, with the Laboratorys
role in nuclear weapons design, which was a primary responsibility
for Livermore from the very start (see the article entitled Fifty
Years of Innovation through Nuclear Weapon Design). From the
outset, Laboratory researchers worked in multidisciplinary teams,
took a can-do attitude, and developed unique capabilities to address
the complex issues and challenging science involved in designing
nuclear weapons. Innovation was central to these efforts and continues
to be a hallmark of the Laboratorys efforts.
Future articles will report
on Livermore contributions to the nations Stockpile Stewardship
Program and to nonproliferation, arms control, and international
security. Other articles will examine the Laboratorys capabilities
in computations, engineering, physics, lasers, chemistry, and materials
science as well as programs in energy, environment, bioscience,
One constant has endured
over the past 50 years: the need for a national laboratory like
Livermore. At the beginning of the 21st century, serious challenges
to national security persist. Their resolution requires innovation
and the best that science and technology can offer. Livermores
defining combination of attitude, special capabilities, and multidisciplinary
team science is the foundation of past successes and current ambitious
programmatic goals. It gives rise to our ability to respond to emerging
national needs and, in some instances, to anticipate them.
The next 50 years are bound
to be as surprising as the last half century. All we can say for
certain is that, when the Laboratory prepares to celebrate its centennial,
it will be a different world yet again. Following the example set
by Livermores founders and todays exceptional staff,
I am sure that the Laboratory will be engaged in the most pressing
issues of the time, striving for innovations to keep the nation
secure, healthy, and prosperous.
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March 8, 2002