HISTORICALLY, the primary mission of DOE's nuclear weapons laboratories has been weapon development and testing. The goal was to get the job done better and faster than anyone else in the world.|
Access to the full documentation today is sometimes difficult, in part because weapons-related data were often classified and/or compartmentalized to limit the risk of inadvertent disclosure or access. Also, older data are dependent on old computer codes, operating systems, or media that cannot be read, and old notes and memos are fading. But even more vulnerable is the critical knowledge still residing only in scientists' heads or stashed in individual repositories.
The thrust of the weapons program today is science-based stewardship of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are responsible for four of the nine weapon systems in the enduring U.S. stockpile, including the only ones that incorporate all modern safety features. Maintaining and managing those systems will be Livermore's responsibility for years to come.
With rare exceptions, the people who will manage the stockpile in the next century will do so without the direct knowledge that comes from having designed and tested a nuclear weapon. Because the generation of designers responsible for the current stockpile is reaching retirement age, "downloading" essential information from their heads is critical for future scientists.
Scientists and engineers at Livermore, proud of their work, enthusiastically embraced the Nuclear Weapons Information Project (NWIP), an archiving effort established in early 1993 to rescue at-risk data and knowledge. Bill Bookless, Principal Deputy Associate Director in the Defense and Nuclear Technologies Directorate, is the project leader. Late in 1993, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board issued Recommendation 93-6, which emphasized retaining safety-related capabilities and capturing weapons knowledge. That directive enhanced the visibility and priority of NWIP work.
The Nuclear Weapons Information Project will preserve Livermore's portion of the Department of Energy's Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program. It will also preserve data for training future scientists, engineers, and technicians and will provide immediate critical information for emergency response to nuclear weapon incidents.
The information archived in NWIP will support proliferation analyses to deter the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries and to terrorist organizations. And the database will provide the fundamental information necessary to resume weapons design, development, testing, and production if required by changes in a volatile world situation.
Because scientists at Livermore depend on access to information at all DOE nuclear weapon facilities, in 1994 Livermore also took a leading role in implementing an information preservation collaboration across the DOE weapons complex. The Nuclear Weapons Information Group (NWIG) today includes participants from the DOE sites shown in the figure, the Department of Defense's Defense Special Weapons Agency, and the United Kingdom's Atomic Weapons Establishment.
The Task at Hand
When work began on the DOE project, the most critical needs were learning what information existed and how to get appropriate access to it. Some DOE sites have as many as 300 different databases or catalogs of relevant data. And some data shelved in unmarked boxes have never been catalogued. Consequently, the initial focus of the group was on "metadata," which are data about data--typically bibliographic data--and on standardization efforts.
Terminology has changed over time, and various organizations across the DOE complex use different terms for the same thing. Local glossaries have been developed and are being shared and integrated, and a categorization system is being developed to define common subject areas. Livermore leads the working group that is developing metadata standards and has led the pilot implementation of searches in and across multiple catalogs.
Capturing documents and data is actually the easy part of the project. Capturing the knowledge that is in people's heads and that cuts across program boundaries is more difficult. Videotapes are being made of panel discussions, tours, lectures, and operations to save undocumented anecdotal technical information and historical perspectives.
Livermore has already adopted the NWIG standards and methods for access by implementing commercial "browser" software to provide access to its electronic archives. A pyramidal need-to-know model is also being implemented, such that individuals authorized at the top of the pyramid may have access to nearly everything while those authorized at other levels have access only to information in a particular domain or perhaps about specific weapon systems. By enhancing its classified network infrastructure, Livermore can balance the increased access to information against the increased threat of compromise.
Translating archived files into such standard formats as HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Portable Document Format (PDF) minimizes the number of platform-sensitive formats that must be translated indefinitely as the technology changes. Settling on a few standard formats also allows the search engine to index every word of every document for retrieval. Links can then be made to the actual archived online documents, or for catalog searches, the search engine can indicate where the documents can be found.
Several advanced technologies are being applied to the Nuclear Weapons Information Project at Livermore. An example is the online video search and retrieval system, which will provide authorized users of the archives access to videotaped information through a search of the automatically generated transcripts. A search will yield both words in the transcript and matching video images.
The access control mechanisms work together with state-of-the-art identification and encryption technology to ensure authorization, authentication, and secure delivery of information on distributed classified networks. Administrators in weapons-related divisions at Livermore are also making use of this new commercial technology to better protect sensitive unclassified information. Livermore is leading the effort across the DOE complex to establish and implement access control policies and procedures.
Information Is a National Asset
Downloading the knowledge from scientists' heads and archiving those stashed personal files--plus organizing and categorizing more accessible data--are essential tasks. The project team is establishing the archives so that this accumulated information, an important national asset, is preserved for the long term and readily accessible whenever needed. The success of much of DOE's Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program depends on these new archives.