Five universities bolster computer simulation effort

Secretary of Energy Federico Peña has announced the selection of five major American universities to participate in a $250-million initiative in collaboration with three DOE national laboratories-Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia-to help advance high-performance computer simulation capabilities needed to make an historic leap in large-scale computer modeling and simulation. Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, the University of Utah at Salt Lake, and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign were selected as Academic Strategic Alliance Program (ASAP) centers.
Each of the chosen universities has proposed very-large-scale applications that collectively drive the development of modeling and computing capabilities. Their endeavors will assist the three national laboratories in developing and validating the technologies needed to certify the reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing. This stockpile stewardship work is being done in support of the Clinton administration's nuclear test ban objectives.
"President Clinton has challenged us to find a way to keep our nuclear stockpile safe, reliable, and secure without nuclear testing," Peña said. "We're going to meet his challenge through computer simulations that verify the safety, reliability, and performance of our nuclear weapons stockpile. I believe these alliances will produce a flood of new technologies and ideas that will improve the quality of our lives and boost our economy. In fact, with the Academic Strategic Alliance Program in place, Americans will begin to see the results-as the acronym suggests-ASAP."
ASAP will accelerate the emergence of high-performance computer-based modeling and simulation as a "third research methodology" in many scientific and engineering areas, along with theoretical and experimental studies.
Contact: David Nowak (510) 423-6796 (

Livermore technology may improve bridge safety

Lawrence Livermore scientists have found a way to "see" beneath the asphalt without disturbing the surface of bridges. The technology that allows them to do this is called micropower impulse radar, which has been licensed to more than 20 companies for everything from measuring heartbeats to checking fluid levels in automobiles to locating studs in walls.
This technology has caught the attention of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the agency responsible for upkeep of some 16,000 bridges in northern California. For more than a generation, Caltrans engineers have been dragging chains across old bridges, listening for "a kind of punky, hollow sound" that means a bridge is deteriorating from the inside out, according to Caltrans Branch Manager Tom Harrington.
For the bridge work, the Lab assembled 64 of the radar devices, each capable of making fine measurements that, in concert, describe a three-dimensional image. Caltrans is sending core samples of a bridge that its crews are dismantling to Lawrence Livermore, where scientists are correlating bridge damage with their radar data. Harrington is hopeful that the new technology will save considerable time and money for the Department.
Contact: Stephen Azevedo (510) 422-8538 (

Celebrating a cleanup success

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore recently celebrated what they say is a successful effort to clean up groundwater contaminated by harmful practices of the past. During the five years since it was listed as a Superfund site, the Laboratory has stopped the westward migration of a toxic plume of groundwater and is ahead of schedule to clean up the water underneath the mile-square site itself, officials said.
Representative Ellen Tauscher praised the Laboratory for making a "nice glass of lemonade" out of a "nasty bag of lemons," while Livermore Mayor Cathie Brown credited the Laboratory for being a good neighbor to residents. "The Lab has demonstrated once again . . . its commitment to the environment," Brown said.
Contact: George Metzger (510) 423-3025 (

Russians visit Superblock at Livermore

In ongoing efforts between Russia and the U.S. to dispose of surplus plutonium, a team of Russian scientists ventured into what has previously been considered forbidden ground-the Superblock, Lawrence Livermore's plutonium facility.
The Russians toured the building to learn more about immobilization techniques for surplus plutonium. Livermore is the U.S. lead laboratory for DOE in immobilizing plutonium in glass or ceramics. These encapsulated forms can then be disposed at a suitable geologic repository site.
The Russians spent five days meeting with Livermore and U.S. experts, as well as studying the Laboratory's facilities to incorporate plutonium into glass or ceramics. Proposals for each option were presented to a steering committee formed by MINATOM (the Russian equivalent of the Department of Energy), DOE, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Contact: Leslie Jardine (510) 423-5032 (
Back to November 1997