director of Lawrence Livermore, Bruce Tarter faces a host of significant
responsibilities: directing the overall research activities of
more than 8,000 employees, managing a budget of more than $1 billion,
and testifying before Congress about key national security issues.
Yet nothing is more important than one yearly task, that of signing
a letter stating whether nuclear weapon systems with Livermore
designs have major safety or reliability issues that must be resolved
with underground nuclear testing.
directors letter, and those from the directors of the Department
of Energys other two national security laboratories, Sandia
and Los Alamos, are part of an exhaustive, largely standardized
process called Annual Certification. The process is a formal assessment
and reporting of the status of the nations stockpile of
nuclear warheads and bombs. The first Annual Certification was
completed in February 1997, and the sixth is under way.
The Annual Certification process is based on technical evaluations
by Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories;
statements by their directors; and findings by the joint DOE
National Nuclear Security Administration/Department of Defense
Project Officers Groups, the commander-in-chief of the Strategic
Command, and the Nuclear Weapons Council and its Standing
and Safety Committee. The secretaries of Energy and Defense
report in a memorandum to the president on the safety and
reliability of the stockpile and whether a resumption of nuclear
testing is needed.
Annual Certification process plays a central role in ensuring
that everyone in the nuclear enterprise, from top to bottom, has
a common understandng of the health of the stockpile. This understanding
is based on thorough technical evaluations by staff at the Livermore,
Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories; statements by their
directors; and findings by the joint DOE National Nuclear Security
Administration (NNSA)/Department of Defense (DoD) Project Officers
Groups (POGs), the commander-in-chief of the Strategic Command,
and the Nuclear Weapons Council. Ultimately, the secretaries of
Energy and Defense report in a written memorandum (classified
by law beginning in 2000) to the president concerning the safety
and reliability of the stockpile and whether a resumption of nuclear
testing is needed. Several other agencies, groups, and advisory
panels also play important roles.
Certification is a review of the status of the nuclear stockpile
based on the results of ongoing stockpile stewardship work,
says Jim Tyler, physicist and program manager for stockpile support.
Tyler, who leads the annual effort at Lawrence Livermore, explains
that Annual Certification is a snapshot of the nations
stockpile, drawing on all aspects of the Stockpile Stewardship
Program. Director Tarter compares it to an annual physical.
notes that a common confusion arises from the term certification,
which has a special meaning to nuclear stockpile managers. Weapons
are certified when they are originally built or when a significant
modification is made to them, and this certification doesnt
expire each year.
Certification, however, is an assessment of the current stockpile
and not a formal certification of the stockpile weapons. We
dont recertify the stockpile warheads and bombs every year.
We put together an assessment of the status of the stockpile and
present it to the government, he explains.
W84 warhead, now inactive, was designed for the Ground Launched
Cruise Missile, seen in this test launch.The
W84 warhead, now inactive, was designed for the Ground Launched
Cruise Missile, seen in this test launch.
test launch of the Minuteman III ICBM (intercontinental
ballistic missile), which is equipped to carry the W62 warhead.
mock B83 bomb is dropped from a B-2 bomber in this flight
test. Such tests are conducted as part of stockpile surveillance
at the Labs
the three national security laboratories, the Annual Certification
process begins in January with the drafting of nine Annual Assessment
Reports. The nine reports correspond to the nine nuclear weapon
designs that comprise the nations nuclear stockpile (see
box below). Each report reviews the status of a particular warhead
or bomb system. The reports also include a description of each
systems current role and planned future role in the nations
stockpile and any ongoing or planned modifications. A key portion
of each report discusses whether nuclear testing is warranted.
Livermore and Sandia/California staffers prepare four reports,
called the California reports, that describe the status of the
four nuclear weapons designed by their two laboratories: the W62,
W84, and W87 warheads and the B83 bomb. These four weapon systems
have been or are expected to remain in the stockpile well past
their originally anticipated lifetimes; in fact, the W62 is already
well past its lifetime. Los Alamos and Sandia/New Mexico experts
compile the drafts of the New Mexico reports on the five stockpiled
nuclear weapon systems designed at Los Alamos and Sandia.
For the dozens of Livermore weapons specialists involved in Annual
Certification, the draft report process involves a comprehensive
review of the Laboratorys stockpile stewardship activities
pertaining to each of the four weapon systems. Stockpile stewardship
is the program managed by NNSA to maintain the nations nuclear
arsenal in the absence of nuclear testing by using improved scientific
and engineering tools. The program was created in the early 1990s
in response to the cessation of underground nuclear testing (see
box entitled "Annual
Certification Based on Stockpile Stewardship").
The quality of our Annual Assessment Reports can be no better
than the quality of our day-to-day stockpile stewardship effort,
test launch of the Peacekeeper ICBM, which is equipped to
carry the W87 warhead.
major element of stockpile stewardship is regular surveillance of
stockpileweapon systems to evaluate the evolving status of the warheads
and bombs as they age. Livermore has special responsibilities for
the surveillance of the four weapon systems that feature its nuclear
designs. These responsibilities include assessing the systems
safety and potential performance and planning for any refurbishment
that might be needed in the future.
assembling the draft reports, Laboratory managers collect and analyze
information from surveillance activities as well as physics, engineering,
and chemistry and materials science data from a complement of stockpile
stewardship activities called baselining. Lawrence Livermore
scientists, engineers, and technicians use baselining tools such
as advanced computer simulations, component-level experiments, subcritical
experiments involving plutonium and high explosives at the Nevada
Test Site, nonnuclear experiments at Livermores remote Site
300, and analysis of historical data from past nuclear tests. Baselining
supports surveillance work assessments and response decisions, Tyler
the end of March, after thorough internal review by technical leaders,
the initial drafts of the nine Annual Assessment Reports are distributed
among the three laboratories and NNSA personnel for review and comment.
In this way, stockpile issues are reviewed and discussed by appropriate
people throughout the NNSA community instead of only by scientists
and engineers at the laboratories that designed the original weapon
and who have primary responsibility for its surveillance. Indeed,
the use of various forms of peer review has become a key component
of many stockpile stewardship efforts because it minimizes the potential
for unrecognized errors by one group or organization.
and questions about the draft reports are discussed at a two-day
meeting at Sandia/New Mexico in mid-April that is attended by representatives
from NNSA and the laboratories. Livermore sends about two dozen
people to the meeting, including managers, physicists, engineers,
and materials experts. During this meeting, each weapon system and
its draft report are reviewed separately. The sessions are led by
the cognizant system managers from Sandia and either Livermore or
Los Alamos. The managers respond first to submitted questions and
concerns and then ask for additional questions from attendees. Its
not a meeting to force consensus but rather an opportunity to air
issues and hear other viewpoints, comments Tyler.
LivermoreDesigned Warheads in the U.S. Stockpile
(intercontinental ballistic missile) warhead
at present (formerly Ground Launched Cruise Missile)
Receive DoD Review
late April, the California and New Mexico teams complete amended
drafts of the laboratories Annual Assessment Reports. These
drafts, which incorporate comments from the New Mexico meeting,
are provided to the Project Officers Groups (POGs) as input for
their own Annual Certification Assessment Reports. A POG
is a group of NNSA and DoD personnel who manage a particular nuclear
warhead or bomb, says Tyler.
meetings, held at various locations in early May, include a review
of the DoD aspects of each weapon system, for example, how a DoD
reentry vehicle integrates with the NNSA warhead components it
contains. In that respect, POG meetings review weapon systems
in a broader context than earlier meetings attended by just DOE,
NNSA, and laboratory staff. Livermore representatives return from
the POG meetings with new comments for inclusion in the laboratories
final Annual Assessment Reports.
May, Livermore senior managers also review the status of the four
Livermore stockpile systems. The weapon system managers and technical
staff give extensive briefings on these systems to the associate
director for Defense and Nuclear Technologies, covering all the
technical details that could have bearing on the current or future
health of the system.
June, Livermore managers coordinate their Annual Certification
results to NNSA. Following this briefing, Laboratory scientists
make a formal presentation to the Stockpile Assessment Team of
the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the DoD unified command
agency for the nations nuclear forces. This forum provides
an opportunity for the entire national security community to review
the information together. The Stockpile Assessment Team is STRATCOMs
advisory panel for stockpile status and issues. The June meeting
supports STRATCOMs Annual Certification Report and the letter
to the Secretary of Defense signed by the commander-in-chief,
U.S. Strategic Command (CINCSTRAT). The meeting is also attended
by representatives from NNSA and DoD agencies and by the Panel
to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States
Nuclear Stockpile. This panel, established by law, is headed by
former Livermore director John S. Foster. The meeting gives valuable
feedback to Livermore managers about their stockpile stewardship
roles, says Tyler.
Certification Based on Stockpile Stewardship
1995, President Clinton announced that the nation
would begin a program called Stockpile Stewardship.
This program would use science-based methods to
assess the safety and reliability of the nations
nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing.
The president also called for a new Annual Certification
procedure as a formal way to periodically assess
and report the status of the stockpile under the
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, President
Clinton declared. Under this arrangement, the secretaries
of Defense and Energy receive annual formal assessments
from directors of the three weapons laboratoriesLivermore,
Los Alamos, and Sandiathe commander-in-chief
of the U.S. Strategic Command, and the Nuclear Weapons
experts have compared the challenges of stockpile
stewardship to the World War II Manhattan Project
to develop the atomic bomb or the Apollo program
to safely land a man on the moon. The reason, in
part, is that nuclear weapons are extremely complex
devices. Many factors greatly influence the performance
of thousands of components in ways that are not
stockpile stewardship work involves researchers
from the Defense and Nuclear Technologies, Engineering,
National Ignition Facility Programs, Chemistry and
Materials Science, Computation, and Physics and
Advanced Technologies directorates. These researchers
rely on data from past nuclear tests, past and presesnt
nonnuclear tests, fundamental science and component-level
experiments, surveillance of actual weapons withdrawn
from the stockpile, and advanced simulations. This
approach has enabled them to successfully address
of Good Pedigree
weapons intended for the enduring stockpile all
have good pedigreesthey went into the stockpile
with blue-chip credentials. However, regular inspections
of aging components have led to modifications of
some weapons in the stockpile.
with all nuclear weapons, those designed at Livermore
use a wide range of materials. Changes related to
aging and to interactions among materials have been
observed in a number of systems and in unexpected
ways, especially as systems age beyond their design
lifetimes. For example, organic materials such as
plastics decompose, metal joinings corrode, and
many materials change properties unpredictably in
response to radioactive environments.
modifications are deemed necessary, scientists and
engineers assess options for refurbishing or replacing
components, including new production and fabrication
processes and materials. Modification actions must
then be formally validated. At Livermore, scientists
and engineers also have broader responsibilities
to develop assessment capabilities, technologies,
and processes that contribute to maintaining the
safety and reliability of all stockpiled weapons..
scientists use a unique collection of tools to examine
and test the many materials that make up a weapon.
Many of these tools were developed or modified at
Livermore. For example, one tool samples gases inside
a weapons interior environment to identify
potential material interactions, monitor aging indicators,
and screen for defects such as incompletely cured
Requires Special Studies
special effort for stockpile surveillance is monitoring
the chemical high explosives that are detonated
to implode a plutonium pit. Livermore scientists
are studying the long-term stability of the complex
organic molecules making up high explosives. They
examine samples from the stockpile for changes in
appearance and texture; measure their physical,
chemical, and mechanical properties; and conduct
performance tests on them..
a focused effort is under way to better understand
the aging mechanisms of plutonium pits because this
understanding is crucial to predicting weapon performance.
(Seethe article entitled Its
the Pits in the Weapons Stockpile.) In the same
vein, data from underground subcritical experiments
at the Nevada Test Site contribute information on
the fundamental nature of plutonium and the effects
of aged plutonium..
knowledge gained from examining nuclear weapon components
and materials and their aging mechanisms is used
to increase the fidelity of computer codes. Realistic
computer simulations then can predict the mechanisms
of material failure and reveal the likely effects
of substituting different materials. NNSAs
Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative is rapidly
pushing computational power far beyond present capabilities
so scientists can better simulate the aging of nuclear
weapons and predict their performance..
is also investing in advanced experimental facilities
such as the National Ignition Facility, under construction
at Livermore, and the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic
Test Facility, under construction at Los Alamos.
The new capabilities will be needed to address the
most challenging stockpile performance issues that
can be expected to arise as weapons systems continue
for the Director
the summer, the director receives extensive briefings on the status
of the Livermore-designed stockpile systems in preparation for
his letter to the secretaries of Energy and Defense. The briefings,
presented by weapon system managers and attended by other senior
Livermore weapons scientists and managers, reflect comments and
issues raised during the previous meetings. This year, for the
first time, members of the University of Californias National
Security Panel will also attend.
the directors review, the final versions of the four Lawrence
Livermore/Sandia Annual Assessment Reports are issued late in
July. For each report, a transmittal letter is signed by the associate
director for Defense and Nuclear Technologies and by the cognizant
Sandia vice president. These final reports are sent to other laboratories
and to NNSA, which forwards them to the POGs, appropriate DoD
agencies, and the White House.
The directors letters to the secretaries of Energy and Defense
are issued in the fall. In his letter, the Livermore director
states whether he believes a resumption of nuclear testing is
warranted for Livermore-designed systems.
CINCSTRAT letter to the Secretary of Defense is also transmitted
in the fall. The Nuclear Weapons Council, established by law to
coordinate all nuclear weapons activities for the nation, now
enters the picture. The council, composed of senior officials
from the NNSA and DoD, issues its report on the stockpile in November
or December. It does so after receiving input from its Nuclear
Weapons Council Standing and Safety Committee, which reviews and
considers the reports, briefings, and letters from the laboratories,
POGs, and STRATCOM.
Annual Certification Memorandum from the secretaries of Energy
and Defense to the president is issued after their staffs have
analyzed the material submitted by the laboratories and other
agencies. Beginning in 2000, this memorandum is classified to
help ensure that accurate technical assessments can always be
included. (See box with the 1999 memorandum below.)
Certification Based on Stockpile Stewardship
Certification is based on ongoing stockpile stewardship
work. The work consists of surveillance, assessment, response,
and baselining. Baselining, in turn, consists of day-to
day activities such as computer simulations, subcritical
experiments of plutonium at the Nevada Test Site, and nonnuclear
tests at Livermores remote Site 300.
cycles of the Annual Certification have now been completed, and
this yearly review has assumed a central role in stockpile stewardship.
On many levels, the Annual Certification uniquely benefits the
nations security and offers advantages to Livermore stockpile
stewards, says Tyler. First, the Laboratorys stockpile stewardship
activities receive a good scrubbing from its own people,
other NNSA laboratory experts, and knowledgeable people from DoD
agencies and outside panels. The process generates valuable feedback
and sharpens our stockpile stewardship activities,
Tyler says. By the same token, NNSA and DoD agencies learn firsthand
from the laboratories about current stockpile status. The interactions
help ensure that the nations nuclear security community
has a common understanding of the status of the nuclear stockpile.
Annual Certification, National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA), Nuclear Weapons Council, Project Officers Groups (POGs),
stockpile stewardship, subcritical experiments, U.S. Strategic
information contact James Tyler (925) 424-3957 (email@example.com).
received a B.A. in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1966
and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of Wisconsin
at Madison in 1973. He joined the Laboratory in August 1973.
At Livermore, he has designed nuclear explosives, managed
two warhead development projects, managed studies of possible
future warheads, and been on staff supporting the Military
Applications Office and the Defense and Nuclear Technologies
(DNT) Directorate. At present, Tyler is the program manager
for Stockpile Support in DNT. As such, he is involved in extensive
interface activities between the Livermore nuclear weapons
program and corresponding organizations in the National Nuclear
Security Administration, the Department of Defense, and the
Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories. A major part
of this work is the management of Livermores yearly
efforts supporting the process for Annual Certification of
the nations nuclear stockpile. Tyler is also the program
manager for the Evaluation and Planning Program, which comprises
systems analysis and weapons effects studies.