Testimony of John C. Browne
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Hearing of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
March 19, 1998
It is a pleasure for me to testify before this committee as the new Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Our mission to reduce the global nuclear danger consists of four main elements: stockpile stewardship, nuclear materials management, nonproliferation and arms control, and cleanup of the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons activities. The end of the Cold War has resulted in a major transition in the maintenance of our nuclear weapons, but we remain strongly committed to providing the nation with the best science and technology in support of our national security.
I would like to make three points in this testimony:
I will discuss each of these points in this testimony, but first I would like to present my approach to managing Los Alamos National laboratory. My actions in my first five months as Director have been designed to help me ensure that Los Alamos can carry out its mission using effective leadership and management systems. I have defined six focus areas for the Laboratory:
These focus areas led me to establish a set of ten-year goals for the institution. Using these ten-year goals, I am engaging the employees in our organizations to define two-year goals that are aimed at meeting the special two-year provisions for Los Alamos in the new contract between the University of California and the Department of Energy (DOE). I also created a new management structure designed to address these focus areas. I will have a small senior executive team of six people who will be responsible for institutional performance in all our programs and in the focus areas above.
I have identified several goals for special attention in the next few years. One is a continued strong emphasis on implementing Integrated Safety Management (ISM) to ensure that our approach to environment, safety, and health becomes ingrained in our culture, meets all laws and regulatory requirements, and results in a safer and more environmentally acceptable workplace. In the past year, we have implemented work control processes in all our facilities and are currently enhancing the training of our people in safe work practices. We are bringing the best industrial practices into our workplace to help us make significant improvements.
Another goal is to improve the execution of all our projects. Although there are examples of good execution such as the Accelerator Production of Tritium (APT) project and the construction of the Laboratory Data Computing and Communications (LDCC) building, I am concerned that a systemic problem has arisen in the area of project management. In a number of important projects, this problem has resulted in project scope and cost growth through insufficient institutional oversight and the lack of a common project management system.
My first step will be to form an external advisory board to advise me on our project management system, our methodology for planning and execution, our project controls and reporting tools, and our training needs. The board will also help me review the status of our existing highest priority projects, such as the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrotest (DARHT) facility, the upgrade of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building, and the Nuclear Materials Storage Facility, as well as our proposed projects, such as the Capability and Maintenance Improvement Project (CMIP), the Nonproliferation and International Security Center, the Safeguards and Security Upgrade Project, and the Strategic Computing Complex.
I am planning to have a senior executive from one of our nation’s largest industrial project management organizations chair this board. The board will include external expertise from recent successful national projects. I am also in the process of hiring an individual to head our Facilities Engineering Division, who will have responsibility for providing management support to all projects. This individual will report to my Deputy for Operations, who will provide regular oversight of our activities. I personally am reviewing the status of our projects at my bimonthly business and operations meetings.
A third goal for emphasis is to improve the security of our facilities and our classified information. The Director of Security, who will report to my deputy for operations, will focus principally on the security of our nuclear facilities and our computing and information systems. He will also be responsible for our emergency management operations. In addition, our internal security evaluation office will report directly to the Deputy for Operations to ensure that we maintain strong oversight of our foreign visitors program and that we educate our people about espionage threats.
A fourth goal that I am personally focusing on is that of community relationships. I have visited all the local communities and pueblos to begin the process of developing trust and open communication, as well as identifying areas of mutual interest for further development.
We have a well-defined and nationally important mission to carry out. It is my intention that we apply best-management principles during my tenure as Director to ensure that we succeed in carrying out this mission.
The DOE’s Stockpile Stewardship Program is designed to certify that the nuclear weapons in our stockpile are safe and reliable without nuclear testing. Many people think of nuclear weapons as abstract instruments of national policy. I think of them as real, complex, physical objects that we are required to maintain for the indefinite future. As Director, I must certify annually to the Secretaries of Energy and Defense that the five nuclear systems for which Los Alamos is responsible (B61, W76, W78, W80, W88) are safe and reliable.
I depend on our scientists and engineers to provide me with their expert advice on the condition of the stockpile. The various facilities and capabilities that are being developed by the Stockpile Stewardship Program are the tools our people will use to obtain the information necessary to certify the stockpile. It is critical that we have both the tools and the people to carry out these responsibilities.
Our stockpile responsibilities are to
These steps we summarize as surveillance, assessment, and response.
Los Alamos is responsible for surveillance ofsurveilling stockpile weapon fissile components, detonators, and explosive valves. The objective of surveillance is to monitor the health of the stockpile by identifying, measuring, analyzing, and predicting the effects of aging on weapon materials and components, and to understand the impact of these effects on the reliability, safety, and performance of the weapons.
The DOE formally established the Enhanced Surveillance Program in early 1996 to develop and improve evaluation and prediction tools. The program has contributed important findings to help us gain confidence in the safety and reliability of the stockpile.
Fissile Components. Although routine inspection of many components is carried out in a number of sites in the DOE complex, Los Alamos remains the only site with extensive plutonium-handling capability and now has the surveillance responsibility for all plutonium pits (the fission core of the weapons). In 1997, thirteen pits from stockpiled weapons were inspected. Several enhanced surveillance techniques are being developed to focus on aging effects and are being implemented in our TA-55 Plutonium Facility.
New dynamic strength measurements of plutonium were completed in January with a technique common in the steel and aircraft industries. In this method, low-intensity shock propagation in the metal was measured under various conditions to provide fundamental materials data.
The Plutonium Facility was the site of two additional firsts for plutonium property measurements: moderate-pressure compression measurements were made with our 40-mm-gas-gun impact facility, and acoustic resonant ultrasound measurements elucidated important elastic properties of this material.
Also in 1997, we deployed a precision-density measurement technique that is 100 times more sensitive than any previous method. We will use this technique to look for the initial signs of swelling that may occur as the plutonium undergoes natural radioactive decay that creates helium and other fission products.
These data are necessary for accurate assessment and simulation of weapons function. The results to date indicate that plutonium in the stockpile has essentially the same properties as new plutonium and that today’s stockpile is as safe and reliable as when it was deployed.
High Explosives and Other Components. We have also made extensive measurements to determine possible deterioration of high explosives (HE), uranium, and many other complex materials that are in nuclear weapons. So far there have been no unexpected findingssurprises.
HE surveillance has been almost totally revamped in the last fourteen months. All elements of the HE Enhanced Surveillance Program have been tightly coupled to measuring and predicting weapon performance, reliability, and safety. Program activities include (1) characterizing and detecting changes in the way HE initiates (begins to react) and then delivers its energy, (2) developing the capability to predict when HE in stockpile weapons will require replacement, and (3) characterizing and developing age-sensitive models to predict properties of HE in order to verify the ability of weapons to function in stockpile-to-target sequence environments.
In the last few years we developed a number of new tests that analyze aged chemical HE for signs of deterioration. Results from an impact test that simulates a possible accident show that old HE is still impact resistant, a very important safety factor. Plasticizer migration, which could have changed the HE sensitivity, has also been shown to be a minor effect. These and similar developments have led to better fundamental understanding and, in the case of HE, allowed us to conclude with confidence that the useful HE lifetime is decades long.
All this work was developed and deployed as part of our surveillance activities. We will continue to monitor our weapons for signs of aging, while advances in fundamental materials science will allow us to anticipate changes before they become a concern.
Several distinguished independent panels reached similar, positive conclusions concerning our surveillance program and the initial success of our science-based approach. Dr. Sidney Drell, head of the University of California’s National Security Panel and chair of the JASON Committee, made the following statement in a January 1998 JASON report:
[The Enhanced Surveillance Program] appears to have been strengthened, and [several activities were] initiated during the past six months. We welcome these important developments and are encouraged by what has been learned that has added confidence to our understanding of aging. In particular some prior concerns about aging of high explosives have been eased, and important progress is being made in the study of plutonium aging.
Science-based stockpile assessment activities are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the end of nuclear testing. The information obtained from surveillance, past nuclear tests, subcritical tests, and laboratory experiments is combined in computational simulation to evaluate weapon system safety, reliability, and performance. New large-scale activities include subcritical tests, the development of enhanced experimental capabilities, and major increases in computational capability. The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) will provide the advanced modeling and simulation capability that will be the basis for integrating all the data for the assessments.
Subcritical Experiments. Experiments with substantial subcritical quantities of plutonium and HE are being carried out at the Nevada Test Site to measure bulk behavior of the metal.
Los Alamos performed the first of these tests last July. In this experiment, called "Rebound," HE charges were used to compress several subcritical configurations of weapon-grade plutonium alloy. Properties associated with intense shock wave propagation in the metal were measured, and analysis showed that current weapon alloys behave as expected. The compression data, previously only inferable from nuclear tests, match the values used in warhead design. The test was a real milestone for the stewardship program and produced vital information about the properties of plutonium under extreme pressure.
Today, experiments such as Rebound are being used to measure these important plutonium properties directly and to determine whether aged material continues to meet specifications. I am pleased to acknowledge that the DOE was steadfast in supporting these new activities at the Nevada Test Site.
Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrotest (DARHT) Facility. Radiography provides images of the implosion of the primary stage of a nuclear weapon using surrogate (nonfissile) materials. The DARHT x-ray facility was conceived in 1987 to increase the effectiveness of nuclear tests. DARHT was first designed to have two axes based on "off-the-shelf" linear induction accelerator technology that was previously used in the Livermore Flash X-Ray (FXR) facility. As a result of the nuclear-testing moratorium in 1992, the Laboratory and the DOE reexamined the functions of DARHT and expanded its planned capabilities to provide higher quality data required by the Stockpile Stewardship Plan and certification of the stockpile.
For the new mission, DARHT is required to produce higher radiographic resolution, and a multiframe capability is planned for one axis. DARHT with these features is a much more powerful tool than originally conceived in 1987 and will permit us to study the implosion of stockpile designs at a much higher level of detail than any other facility. It is my belief that DARHT will be an essentialthe single most important experimental facility operating for stockpile stewardship in the near future. DARHT’s first arm will be operational in June 1999 and the second arm in the 2002.
Dynamic Radiography with Protons. A stockpile issue of significant concern has been the performance of certain HE detonators over the full temperature range that might be encountered during service.
To respond to this concern, researchers from Los Alamos and Livermore National Laboratories applied a new experimental technique last year. They took multiple snapshots of detonator firings using a proton beam at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE). The system was tailored to give the right time sequence for showing progression of the burn front through the detonator material and into the main HE charge. These measurements contributed to the certification of an active weapons type. Laboratory-Directed Research and Development funding (LDRD) played a vital role in the early stages of development of the proton radiography concept.
Computing and Simulation. Numerical simulations integrate our understanding of the many complex processes that take place in a thermonuclear weapon. Indeed, without nuclear testing, numerical simulations are now the only tool available to evaluate the performance of a complete weapon.
The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) will accomplish this goal by modeling, simulating, and analyzing the data from previous nuclear tests and future nonnuclear experiments and then applying the validated codes to analyze warheads in the stockpile. The Stockpile Stewardship Program is driving ASCI to produce new three-dimensional (3D) applications codes, new hardware, new software, and new infrastructure capabilities. For example, new numerical methods and algorithms that efficiently scale to 10,000 computer processors will be developed, as well as sophisticated visualization and knowledge discovery tools.
Los Alamos is working in partnership with Silicon Graphics to develop the "Blue Mountain" computer. This system is a stunning example of a parallel computer architecture that has computational speed not thought possible a few years ago. Today, the our Blue Mountain computer and our Advanced Computing Lab working together/Nirvana arecomputer combination is capable of 700 billion floating-point operations per second. Our goal is to expand this capability to 100 trillion floating-point operations per second by the year 2004. We plan to reach this goal through a series of interim computer systems. Each successive computing system will be more powerful and more capable than the previous computer system. These computers will make the improvements by using the current scheme of linking commercially available commodity processors into a single system. This is a major technical challenge that requires continued strong partnership between the Laboratory and industry.
On Blue Mountain, we recently completed a fifty-hour simulation of an 18-million-cell, one-point safety calculation of a nuclear weapon. A one-point safety calculation is important for scenarios in which the HE in a nuclear weapon detonates at a single point as a result of an accident. A requirement for stockpile weapons is that a one-point detonation produce no nuclear yield. Such a simulation requires 3D capability that stretches our codes to the utmost and is a powerful test of our capabilities. This calculation demonstrated our ability to run this kind of problems in parallel and in a scalable fashion, thus exploiting the coupled systems of processing units.
Los Alamos also demonstrated the ability to use one of our new codes on an ASCI computer of different architecture. Our 3D nuclear weapons code operated on the Sandia National Laboratories ASCI Red computer (the Intel machine with one trillion floating-point operations per second). This demonstration was very promising and increases our confidence that the ASCI codes will transfer from initial development systems to future systems without major code modifications.
While still in the early stages, ASCI codes and computers performed nuclear weapon simulation calculations at a fidelity thought to be previously impossible. For the first time ever, Los Alamos performed a simulation of a 3D stockpile nuclear-device implosion, including some engineering features.
ASCI simulations have made significant contributions to the dual revalidation of the W76, a warhead used on some Trident missiles. Dual revalidation is a joint DOE/Department of Defense (DoD) program established to provide peer review by Livermore and Los Alamos for a nuclear weapons system. This program reviews all areas of the system including, for example, nuclear physics (performance), nuclear safety, reliability, and engineering. ASCI has provided valuable simulations that compare favorably to the old legacy computer simulations. ASCI simulations were also instrumental in resolving a specific classified W76 concern.
ASCI is expected to dramatically expand our options for solving technical problems. One example is the full radiographic interpretation of complicated assemblies. Until recently, full simulation of the radiographic process was not feasible. ASCI has given us an important capability to solve this problem. Improved mathematical techniques running on the Blue Mountain computer have speeded up a Monte Carlo simulation calculation by a factor of 16,000. Two years ago, this calculation required eighteen months to complete, but today it is done in an hour. This computing capability facilitates information extraction from proton radiographs at LANSCE and x-ray radiographs at DARHT, leading to improved simulations about the performance of aging nuclear weapons.
Response measures are actions such as repairing nuclear weapons, remanufacturing components and weapons subsystems, system modifications, and revalidating stockpile weapons for war-reserve use.
As a result of the DOE nuclear weapons complex downsizing, the national laboratories were given several assignments beyond their traditional missions. Los Alamos was assigned pit production, pit surveillance, detonator production, detonator surveillance, tritium target tube loading for neutron generators, beryllium component production, calorimeter production, and surrogate components for joint DOE/DoD flight tests. (Surrogate components are nonnuclear components used in mock-ups of nuclear subassemblies.) We are now re-establishing the processes, capabilities, facilities, and trained personnel to perform these assignments. However, some of the old plant processes cannot be reproduced because of "sunset" technologies, unavailability of materials, or unacceptable environmental impacts. In some cases, much better processes are available. As these processes are put into operation, Los Alamos will validate them through laboratory testing and computer simulation.
Los Alamos is serving the nation now in a hybrid role as a nuclear research and development laboratory with a limited manufacturing capability.
Nuclear Components. The DOE has a long-term strategy to establish and preserve its capability to manufacture pits at Los Alamos. The initial effort is to capture and exercise all the technologies, capabilities, and systems on a limited scale. DOE’s aggressive short-term goal is to produce a W88 (Trident II warhead) technology development unit in FY 1998 and a similar unit with war-reserve availability by FY 2001. A companion goal is to produce a B61-7 pit in FY 2000 and a W87 (Peacekeeper) pit the following year.
Our pit-manufacturing capability is almost in place. Work on demonstration pits is under way. We are developing the infrastructure required for an enduring pit-manufacturing capability with a capacity of about twenty pits per year by 2007. This enduring manufacturing capability will be the foundation for achieving limited-scale pit-production capability of fifty pits per year as described in the 1996 Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.
Nonnuclear Components. As part of the Nonnuclear Reconfiguration program, Los Alamos was assigned manufacturing tasks for detonators, detonator simulators, pit mock-ups, beryllium, calorimeters, and tritium-loading of neutron tube targets. The first diamond-stamp-certified (war-reserve quality) weapons component produced by Los Alamos and delivered to the stockpile as part of this program was a production lot of 85 beryllium inserts for gas system reservoirs, which we shipped in September 1997.
Los Alamos loads the tritium into the neutron generator targets manufactured by Sandia. Within the last few months, we developed and used a safer and more automated process to produce the first lot of war-reserve-quality tritium tubes.
Consistent with our expertise in electroexplosive devices, Los Alamos was assigned responsibility for the manufacturing and surveillance of detonators and actuators, with some components supplied by Allied SignalAlliedSignal, Kansas City. Since FY 1996, we have supplied the DoD with war-reserve-quality detonators for use in laboratory and flight tests.
Production Facilities. When plutonium operations were terminated at Rocky Flats, Los Alamos became DOE’s designated location for research, development, and manufacturing operations for plutonium and other selected nuclear materials.
To accomplish our production assignments we must have facilities that operate in a safe and environmentally compliant manner. This requirement is particularly necessary for nuclear facilities. Upgrades to three nuclear facilities are discussed below. Each facility requires significant upgrades to meet production levels with modern environment, safety, and health (ES&H) standards.
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Upgrades. The CMR building houses essential analytical chemistry capabilities for pit production and stockpile surveillance. Last year, renovations on the CMR building were suspended, pending reevaluation of the problems encountered in improving the 45-year-old systems in this nuclear facility. Now, DOE is approving the safety and lifetime-extension subprojects within the scope and budget of the CMR upgrade project, and funding of $16 million for the FY 1999 design and construction work is included in the DOE budget submittal.
Nuclear Materials Storage Facility Renovation. To meet our assignments that involve nuclear materials, we need a modern storage facility. The Nuclear Materials Storage Facility (NMSF), which was built a few years ago, has design deficiencies and cannot be used for its intended purpose without upgrades. This facility will be necessary if we are to fulfill our role in plutonium operations.
The requested amount ($9.2 million) for the FY 1999 design work is included in the DOE budget submittal for FY 1999. When this design work is completed, the project will be evaluated regarding cost, scope, and schedule. DOE approval and funding will be required before we proceed further.
Plutonium Facility (TA-55). The Plutonium Facility provides a safe, secure space for conducting research and development in the processing and the limited manufacture of plutonium pits. Although this is the newest of the country’s weapons plutonium facilities, its twentieth anniversary of operations will occur in 1998. The limited-scale pit-manufacturing mission will require interior modifications and upgrades. The modifications to the Plutonium Facility and associated shops are included in both the Transition Manufacturing and Safety Equipment Activity and the Capability Maintenance and Improvement Project (CMIP). The Transition Manufacturing and Safety Equipment Activity will begin in FY 1999 using operations and maintenance funds and will transition into CMIP in FY 2001.
Plant Interactions. As a result of DOE’s Reconfiguration Program, Los Alamos has become more closely involved with other plants and laboratories in the weapons complex.
Our cooperative ventures with Savannah River are extensive. In the project on Accelerator Production of Tritium (APT), we have numerous Savannah River employees on-site at Los Alamos working in collaboration with our employees and our other industrial partners. We have very beneficial personnel exchange programs in other areas as well. We work together on gas reservoir materials, tritium purification and recovery, facility modeling, boost-system function testing, and reservoir metallography.
With Y-12, we are developing programs that deal with the resumption of enriched uranium capability, carbon reduction in recycled uranium, and component-machining issues.
Our extensive interactions with Pantex include process-development team meetings, personnel exchanges, weapons dismantlement and safety issues, and housing a Pantex project manager at Los Alamos. Among the joint projects are pit storage and monitoring, component requalification for refurbishment, conventional HE production, HE disposal through base hydrolysis, and transfers of engineering models such as a rapid prototyping model for tooling purposes.
With Allied SignalAlliedSignal, we share a manufacturing assignment in detonator components and common interests in a wide range of production issues. We conduct numerous site visits; we are preparing space at our detonator facility for Allied SignalAlliedSignal employees; and we are establishing a manufacturing infrastructure for war-reserve pits.
DOE’s program on Advanced Manufacturing Design and Production Technologies (ADAPT) is helping the laboratories and plants work together. A modern and secure communications and data network developed under this program is helping us share information rapidly. The network is useful in collaborations on a wide variety of stockpile activities, with emphasis on new manufacturing capabilities. The funding for ADAPT was increased in the FY 1998 budget, and the program is moving forward.
Accelerator Production of Tritium
At present, the country does not have an operating tritium supply facility, and the replacement needs of the stockpile are met from recycled and reserve supplies. The APT project is developing a new way to supply this essential but rapidly decaying component of all modern nuclear weapons. APT would be a dedicated military facility, thereby avoiding the policy concern of using civilian facilities for military purposes.
The tritium production facility would be built at Savannah River. Los Alamos leads the APT national project and is separately responsible for engineering development and key demonstration activities. One of our recent accomplishments is the APT low-energy demonstration accelerator, which recently surpassed a performance requirement of the project using plant prototype equipment.
Last year the project met all fifteen major milestones and received Critical Decision 2 approval by Secretary of Energy Peña. This accomplishment allowed us to initiate plant engineering design. DOE plans to decide on the lead technology by the end of 1998.
At DOE’s request, APT developed a new, flexible approach to tritium production known as the "modular design." This design meets both Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) I and START II requirements. The most significant feature is a substantial cost reduction that can be realized if a decision to move to START II is made before the year 2002. The project is now well into engineering design, and a baseline cost has been established. DOE has not fully budgeted for this option at this time. Also, the FY 1999 funding level is not adequate to supply the amount of tritium that would be needed to meet START I requirements in the year 2007.
Congress and this committee deserve credit for their attention to US and global security. In the last two National Defense Authorization Acts, Congress identified the need to protect the nation from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD includes nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons) and their potential use by terrorists.
At Los Alamos we are applying our multidisciplinary science and engineering skill to address these problems. Working in cooperation with the other national laboratories, Los Alamos provides direct support to the DOE’s Office of Nonproliferation and National Security and to other federal agencies including DoD.
For effective use of the Laboratory’s resources in threat reduction, Los Alamos urgently requires a new Laboratory facility to provide our expert personnel equipment to support programs needed to respond to the wide range of national security threats. The job is complex and requires multidisciplinary efforts and a consolidated workforce. Currently, the personnel and capabilities involved in threat reduction are spread across forty-three square miles.
FORTÉ is a small research satellite sponsored by DOE/NN; built by Los Alamos, Sandia, and industry; and launched last summer by the Air Force. FORTÉ is an outstanding success and provides us with valuable information in discriminating between lightning associated with thunderstorms and the electromagnetic pulse from an atmospheric nuclear weapon detonation.
We are now ready to proceed with the design of the "V-sensor" prototyped on FORTÉ as an operational replacement for the existing electromagnetic-pulse nuclear-detonation-detection instrument. The V-sensor will be designed for installation on future Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, will provide accurate information in real time on the location and timing of any atmospheric nuclear detonation, and will provide characterization of the nuclear detonation.
The United States is in danger of losing a significant part of its satellite-based nuclear detonation monitoring capability for nuclear explosions in the atmosphere and in space. Many of the satellites carrying our monitoring capabilities will retire in the next two years, and the planned replacement platforms lack sensors for electromagnetic pulse, neutron, or gamma-ray signatures, so we will lose a significant part of today’s baseline monitoring capabilities. Deployment of the replacement detection systems is critical to maintaining our current monitoring capability as well as being essential for the CTBT. Several blue-ribbon panels of experts as well as government agencies have certified the need for these satellite-based nuclear detonation detection sensors.
We have also made significant strides in the capability to detect and identify gaseous effluents from suspected WMD production sites. Our efforts under DOE/NN’s CALIOPE program focused on developing a light-weight, yet powerful laser radar (LIDAR) detection system using long-wave infrared CO2 lasers. Last year, for the first time, we tested an aircraft-based developmental effluent-monitoring LIDAR. This test flight was carried out in cooperation with the Army’s Edgewood Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ERDEC) using the Air Force Research Laboratory’s ARGUS aircraft. The system demonstrated the possibility of chemical detection and identification in very diffuse effluent clouds from tens of kilometers away. This month we will begin testing the next generation aircraft instrument, significantly smaller and significantly more sensitive. Our goal is to complete the development of a satellite-based effluent monitor. Such a system would make it exceedingly difficult to disguise WMD production as industrial operations, and it has the potential to detect underground WMD production sites. Satellite systems of course are not impeded by national borders.
Assessing foreign nuclear weapons and capabilities is highly specialized work that can only be accomplished at the three nuclear defense national laboratories. Requirements for this expert analysis and assessment are greater today than during the Cold War. I am concerned that funding for this work has declined across the US government. This trend should be reversed.
Our collaborative work with the Russians has dramatically improved the security of Russian nuclear material. This collaboration was expanded to include reactor fuel sites and rail transportation of nuclear materials between nuclear facilities. In addition to Russia, we are now working in Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
Large quantities of nuclear material were left vulnerable following the break-up of the Soviet Union. The DOE’s Material Protection Control and Accountability (MPC&A) program is designed to secure these fissile materials—sufficient to manufacture thousands of nuclear weapons—in states of the former Soviet Union (FSU). During the past year, Los Alamos has increased its efforts in this program. Securing weapons-usable nuclear materials is absolutely vital to reduce the nuclear proliferation risk.
At Los Alamos, we have over 100 people cooperating with FSU institutes. Russia has thousands of skilled personnel who are now working with their American counterparts to secure the fissile materials remaining from 50 years of nuclear weapons production. Over 50 Russian sites previously designated as "most secret" participate in the MPC&A program. Major security upgrades allow expanded protection of nuclear materials.
Another area of concern is nuclear smuggling. At this time Russia and its neighbors need better detection equipment, customs agent and border guard training, better search-and-seize of illicit nuclear materials capabilities, and better forensics. The national laboratories can provide assistance in this area.
We need to begin thinking beyond securing the nuclear materials and infrastructure in the FSU. We need to ensure the completion of the current MPC&A work and expand it to include conversion of the nuclear material for continued protection, long-term secure storage, and ultimate disposal.
Nuclear Material Disposition
The Los Alamos Advanced Recovery and Integrated Extraction System (ARIES), a key element of the national materials disposition program, converts fabricated fission assemblies (pits) into a stable, unclassified plutonium product (pucks) assayed and packaged for long-term storage. The ARIES pilot demonstration project is in its third year and will begin operations in this quarter of the year. A Conceptual Design Report for the full-scale ARIES production facility has been completed. Following discussions with numerous Russian scientific institutes and facilities staff, Los Alamos is collaborating with the Russians to support construction of a Russian conversion system and, ultimately, a Russian plant producing a steady stream of excess material that is stabilized, assayed, and packaged for secure storage before final disposition.
Defense Against Chemical and Biological Weapons
Los Alamos is providing technologies to respond to chemical and biological weapon threats. Some examples of our recent work include the following:
Conventional Defense Technologies
The Defense Program laboratories can provide additional support to DoD in addressing current and emerging national security issues, including
Joint Munitions Program. The Joint DoD/DOE Munitions Technology Program is an example of effective partnering. Under this program, Los Alamos has been a leader in the development of improved explosives, firing systems, and other innovative warhead components for the military. This has been achieved by leveraging the extensive design and explosives capabilities developed at the Laboratory in the nuclear weapons program. Los Alamos and its partner DP laboratories are performing state-of-the-art munitions science and technology development for the DoD and the armed services.
Hard Target Defeat. In the National Defense Act of 1998, Congress directed DoD and DOE to form a pilot program that addresses the threat posed by hard and deeply buried targets. In response, the DOE Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, with the assistance of the three DP Laboratories, is preparing a joint DOE/DoD proposal for developing technologies to find, characterize, and defeat hard and deeply buried targets. This proposal also identifies measures to lower impediments to interdepartmental cooperation. Other areas identified by senior military officials for contributions by the DP Laboratories are alternatives to antipersonnel landmines and modeling and simulation as applied to force structure analysis and acquisition streamlining.
Infrastructure Security. The emergence of transnational threats to our security—WMD, terrorist attacks on infrastructure, and drugs—present a unique challenge to the US Government in protecting civilians and critical assets. Los Alamos currently aids in countering these threats by providing technologies to detect, interdict, protect, and respond regarding US interests. Many of these technologies are derivative from programs in treaty monitoring and verification, materials control and accountability, force protection, and counterforce. In addition, modeling and simulation has been used as an adjunct for integration, vulnerability analysis, and assessing response options. We see transnational threats as an area for expanded scientific and technical support by Los Alamos of US Government agencies, state, and local responders in the coming years.
Ballistic Missile Defense. Los Alamos has been developing sophisticated calculational capabilities derived from the nuclear weapons program to simulate the collision between an interceptor vehicle and its target. The capability to simulate this encounter at closing velocities of up to 9 km/sec is essential because full scale experiments such as sled tracks are limited to less than 2 km/sec and are complicated, costly, and difficult to interpret.
Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs)
The recent practice by DoD defense contracting agencies of precluding Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (which includes the DP Laboratories) from responding or teaming in Broad Agency Announcements does not benefit the Government in pursuing basic and exploratory research. Congressional clarification and guidance on this matter would allow the national laboratories to respond to BAAs for DoD R&D programs, which has been allowed for many years under the Federal Acquisition Regulations.
Los Alamos’s critical programmatic role in the Stockpile Stewardship Program must be supported by effective waste management operations and efficient completion of our environmental restoration work. Consistent, predictable funding is imperative to efficient, compliant operations and timely completion of environmental restoration projects. Performance of the environmental programs is considered so important to all parties that it appears as a special two-year assessment in the new contract with the University of California.
During FY 1997, the Laboratory’s Environmental Management Program exceeded performance goals in Environmental Restoration and Waste Management. This is the third year of continuous improvement in these two areas.
The goal of the Environmental Restoration Project is to evaluate and remediate sites in accordance with environmental regulatory requirements. During 1997, 158 sites were proposed to the regulators as posing no threat to human health. This included physical clean up of 7 sites. In addition, 7 facilities were decommissioned, involving the demolition, removal, and excavation of structures, asbestos, foundations, and ductwork.
Among structures decommissioned were facilities from the 1940s used in processing of high explosives for the Manhattan Project. Cleanup was completed at the former small arms firing range on US Forest Service land, recovering of 4.8 tons of lead for recycling. Environmental Restoration began characterization of the canyons at Los Alamos with the cooperation of neighboring San Ildefonso Pueblo.
Waste minimization efforts continued in 1997, resulting in cost avoidance of approximately $1 million in waste management costs and exceeding DOE goals. Noteworthy accomplishments in Waste Management included the following:
Pollution Prevention efforts at Los Alamos continued to make significant contribution to the Laboratory’s sustainability ethic. A project already returning significant value is electrolytic decontamination of plutonium glove boxes so that they can be reused or disposed of as low-level waste.
Los Alamos, teamed with DOE’s Albuquerque Operations Office and Nuclear Fuel Services, has been awarded $5 million from DOE’s Environmental Management Science and Technology Program to deploy a fully integrated Decontamination and Volume Reduction System at Los Alamos to survey, decontaminate and compact oversized metallic items contaminated with transuranic constituents. This system has broad applicability across the DOE complex and could save millions of dollars in operating and disposal costs.
We also continue to be a leader in the Environmental Management Science Program. In addition to providing innovative technology solutions to Environmental Management problems, these programs provide the science and technology base for a new initiative in Sustainability Science. Los Alamos plans to be the first "sustainable" Laboratory and is leading a regional initiative in sustainability. Los Alamos contributes to the solution of global issues with an integrated approach using measurements, advanced computing and assessment. Projects in water resource management focused on the Rio Grande Basin will be extended to applications internationally, specifically in the Middle East and China.
Let me return to some topics about Laboratory life and vitality. For the Laboratory to remain a strong national resource, it must have a vigorous staff engaged in challenging work and equipped with suitable facilities.
On the topic of developing the next generation of weapons experts, Dr. Sidney Drell made the following statement in the January 1998 JASON’s report:
Maintaining expertise within the nuclear weapons laboratories is a major concern over the long-term, so we fully approve of the new efforts now being made within the National Laboratories to identify and train young scientists. Also, the long-term reliability of the stockpile will best be ensured by challenging young researchers to take positions of leadership within the weapons laboratories as is now being done in the Laboratories.
I share the JASON’s concern, and one of my most important challenges is to maintain the vitality of the Laboratory’s scientific staff. Several activities are aimed at this challenge, but they lie primarily in two areas: education and external collaborations.
In the area of education, the Laboratory has instituted a program called the TITANS Institute (Theoretical Institute of Thermonuclear and Nuclear Studies) as a formalized mentoring and training program for our experienced nuclear weapons experts to train their less-experienced colleagues in the science of nuclear weapons fundamentals. One of our most important tools for recruiting the brightest and the best is our postdoctoral program in which, through fierce competition, we continue to attract highly qualified postdoctoral students. Almost 400 postdoctoral students participate in our program. The length of time participants spend in the program is nominally three years, so the outstanding talent of these people is a constant source of stimulation and renewal for our scientific staff. During the last five years, about one-third of our post-postdoctoral students stayed on with us as technical staff.
Furthermore, through the Laboratory’s community interactions in northern New Mexico, we are helping to stimulate an interest in science at an early age through several outstanding education programs for pre-college students and their teachers. including programs such as a supercomputing challenge where our technical staff mentor high-school students on supercomputer projects.
We actively collaborate with the nation’s university and industrial communities. In order for Los Alamos to meet its programmatic requirements, we have to interact with the best of the academic community to take advantage of its strength in basic science; we also have to interact with the industrial community to take advantage of its strength in technology. These interactions not only challenge and stimulate the Laboratory’s technical staff but also help attract outstanding people to the Laboratory as they find out how exciting and challenging our work is.
One of many factors reflecting the quality and vitality of the staff is recognition through prestigious external awards. During the past year, Los Alamos has garnered many notable awards including six researchers named as Fellows of the American Physical Society; two researchers named as Fellows to the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (from a membership of 12,000 there can be only 100 Fellows at any given time); the Bonner Nuclear Physics Prize; six R&D 100 awards from R&D Magazine; one researcher named as Fellow to the American Geophysical Union; one researcher named as Fellow of the ASM materials society; two 1997 Gordon Bell Prizes for advances in computing; the Hilda Davis Award for educational leadership from the National Association for Women in Education; a nuclear weapons engineer being selected the Most Promising Scientist in the 10th annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards; the first Hispanic woman elected as director of the 43,000-member International Metallographic Society; the James I. Mueller Award which is the highest award of the American Ceramic Society; the American Ceramic Society’s Robert L. Cole Award for outstanding scholarship in an individual under the age of 35; and Popular Science Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award for the top achievement in science and technology.
Some of the most important factors in maintaining and attracting a vibrant technical staff are to have an important mission plus the challenge and stimulation required to meet that mission. Los Alamos is fortunate to have those factors—the mission of reducing the global nuclear danger plus the scientific challenge and stimulation of the stockpile stewardship program.
The Laboratory has specialized and modern capabilities but many are located in old buildings, some dating from the 1950s. Almost the entire Laboratory depends on an infrastructure with many age-related problems. Revitalizing and replacing facilities to meet the mission requirements and modern safety and environmental standards will require a major capital reinvestment.
Infrastructure revitalization will require at least ten years. We are estimating and validating the required funding and setting priorities for this activity. We expect some of the required funding to come from operating budgets, with other funding coming from line items. As we enter into this revitalization project, we recognize our responsibility to have a validated and operational construction project management system.
Construction Project Management
I will now return to the subject of project management, which we consider so important. We must have a solid project-management system in place for all our existing and planned projects if we are to accomplish our objectives on cost and on schedule. I am restructuring the entire Laboratory construction management approach to provide improved management systems and product controls. I will use recent lessons learned from our successful management of the APT project.
Changes will include better early project planning to
We will use proven management systems, including formal plans for the following:
A dedicated project manager will be assigned to each project and will report to the Laboratory division who owns and operates the facility. The Facilities Engineering Division will support the project managers and maintain a single, proven, project management system for use by the entire Laboratory. All project managers and their teams will receive project management training before a project begins. Our program offices will regularly communicate with the DOE on project performance and budget requirements. Laboratory senior management will provide institutional oversight of all projects. DOE will provide oversight through their program offices. We will implement external, independent reviews of each project to validate its technical approach, project scope, schedule, and costs. I have assigned major institutional responsibility for the implementation of these changes to my Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations.
In response to the 1996 DOE threat guidance, the Laboratory is reviewing its security posture. Development of an appropriate safeguards and security strategy involves a detailed analysis of the protective capabilities of each of our sites that have Special Nuclear Materials (SNM), along with an assessment of the supporting elements such as SNM control and accountability, counterintelligence analysis, and protective measures for sensitive and classified media. Our current provisions for material control and accountability and security planning require improvements to meet DOE expectations. These adjustments will require operating funds for facility changes, additional personnel, equipment purchases, and line item construction projects for major security upgrades.
The safety and health of the workforce is affected by the state of our physical facilities but is very dependent on the institution's support of good individual work practices. We are very far along in the process of implementing Integrated Safety Management (ISM) to cover all activities at the Lab. This has involved the cooperation of the DOE to reduce the burden of unnecessary formal compliance and placement of trust in the workforce to help define how jobs should be done more safely. Last year, a remarkable achievement was realized—about thirty DOE orders, largely on safety, were taken out of our management contract, and the technical staff cooperated with safety professionals and DOE representatives agreeing on safety standards defined by reference to national standards and laws. We are putting in place the training for employees to ensure that safe work practices are followed by everyone. The next step will be to expand ISM to include our environmental performance.
University of California Contract
Last Fall, the University of California and the DOE approved a five-year continuation of the contract to operate the Laboratory. This continues the University’s half-century of management of Los Alamos under the government-owned contractor-operated concept. Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review identified this relationship as an exemplary model of performance-based management. The contract's management process seeks to improve the Laboratory's support of research, decrease the costs of operations, and reduce the need for a large number of DOE audits. The process measures the quality of science, engineering and technical work, and uses jointly established metrics for evaluating administrative and operational performance. The contract contains well over 100 quantitative performance measures. Included is a provision for a special DOE assessment of the Laboratory’s performance relating to environment, safety and health; environmental restoration; regional economic development; and community and educational outreach during the first two years of the contract.
Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD)
LDRD continues to be an essential resource to keep our science and scientists at the forefront in executing our national security mission effectively. This resource becomes increasingly important in this era without nuclear testing to help us find new and more accurate ways to model, execute, and diagnose all the processes required in the stewardship of the nuclear stockpile. Investments begun in the last few years are paying off handsomely by giving us direct understanding of high-explosive behavior during ignition using a previously unimagined diagnostic tool, and the data are of sufficient quality to influence decisions about the stockpile.
Other recent investments have given us new insights into the production and behavior of high-density electron beams and targets that are today providing input into the technical decisions related to the second axis of DARHT. Another project is helping us gain crucial understanding of multifluid turbulent mixing in dense materials that will give us key information on performance and reliability of the stockpile. Other projects are looking at the fundamental processes governing aging of metal and polymer materials in the stockpile, and this work is influencing thinking about what measurements to make and what diagnostics to use to evaluate the health of weapons components.
Without weapons testing, the credibility of the nation’s nuclear deterrent rests upon the scientific credibility of those certifying its readiness. It has therefore become even more important that the Laboratory be able to attract and keep the very highest caliber scientific talent. This is of mounting concern as the average age of our most expert weapons scientists increases. LDRD, through the execution of cutting-edge science and technology and the resulting visibility and high Laboratory reputation, helps us bring the brightest young scientists to the Laboratory to execute tomorrow’s national security mission.
In building that reputation, LDRD scientists continue to garner national and international recognition for their work, most recently from the National Academy of Sciences, the IEEE Computer Society, the Optical Society of America, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Bomem Corporation, the Von Humboldt Foundation, the American Geophysical Union and the Biophysical Society, among others.
A Multiprogram Laboratory
In a similar vein, the Laboratory highly values its participation in research programs outside our central national security mission. Although these are funded largely through other accounts, I thought the committee would find these examples useful for appreciating how such research allows us to enhance the science and technology that underpin our core mission. Our performance in open and competitive civilian research helps sustain our scientific edge and our credibility, at the same time strengthening capabilities essential to the national security mission. It also leverages the national investment in defense by applying the capabilities to other problems of national importance.
One example is a special Laboratory ability to pose and solve the most challenging and complex technical problems through a combination of our strength in fundamental theory, our ability to experimentally validate that theory, and our power in high-performance computing. Such multifaceted approaches give new insight and understanding of the most complex systems. These approaches can be applied to problems of energy supply and usage, environmental modeling and assessment, climate prediction, technologies to improve and assess our infrastructure, and crisis forecasting and modeling, just to name a few.
The environment is one system in which modeling at Los Alamos started with the search to understand the transport of radioactive materials but expanded to become a broad modeling capability that can be applied to many complex transport problems. One such application was the oil-well fires that were set in Kuwait after Desert Storm. More recently, we have become engaged in high-resolution coupling of ocean and atmospheric models to study natural variability in the climate system, which applies directly to important issues such as global warming.
Another complex system is that of electronic devices, in which our ability to look at multiple scales from the atomic, even the quantum, level right up to the device level is enabling a collaboration with industry that is fruitful for both sides. Results from this collaboration will benefit not only the electronics industry but also the nonproliferation mission of the Laboratory.
The knowledge gained in modeling such complex systems (through development of algorithms, solvers, gridding techniques, dealing with multiple scales, managing the data complexity) all feed back to the capabilities of our scientists to address our core missions. In addition, the closeness of these collaborations with academia and industry brings to the Laboratory new perspectives and methods of thinking that have direct influence on and benefit to our core programs.
Neutron Science and the Spallation Neutron Source. The facilities at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) continue to be a resource for the generation and use of neutrons by the stockpile stewardship program and the national scientific community in fundamental science and materials research. Jointly funded by DOE/DP and DOE/ER, LANSCE also attracts outstanding scientific talent to Los Alamos, benefiting our nuclear weapons stewardship mission directly.
There is also a direct symbiosis with our stewardship mission, in which the understanding of materials in both static and dynamic states is a central and vital element, and neutrons provide a key diagnostic of metal and polymer structure and behavior. At the Laboratory we look at increasing the fidelity with which we can use neutrons to probe molecular structure in static and dynamic experiments. We are also helping to expand the national capability in neutron science. Los Alamos is a major partner in the Spallation Neutron Source Project, which will be located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We provided the expertise in the accelerator and completed substantial design work this year. This major national project involves the Laboratory in a valuable network of partnerships with the DOE complex, industry, and the broader international scientific community.
Information Security—Quantum Processes. A fascinating example of the use of what was purely fundamental science from the civilian side to immediate and practical national security application has come from the use of quantum phenomena in information protection. In the strange world of quantum mechanics, we can use streams of single photons to carry information, but if the stream is monitored by an external third party, the monitoring itself alters the nature of the single photon data and so is immediately detected. This means that quantum cryptography can be made extremely secure. A prototype system has been installed at Los Alamos to transmit single photon data over a distance of twenty miles, and another system is being tested in the Washington, DC, area. This work is progressing so rapidly that the Laboratory has begun to seriously investigate using quantum cryptography for satellite applications.
Space Exploration. Los Alamos has the historical and continuing responsibility to develop and provide new and sophisticated space instrumentation for verifying treaties related to nuclear testing. We have the expertise to develop space instrumentation for other missions as well, such as missions to learn about the basic science of the universe and Earth’s own atmosphere.
A recent example of our multidisciplinary contributions was highlighted on March 5, 1998, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration presented the first scientific results (including evidence of the presence of frozen water at the moon’s poles) from Lunar Prospector, a low-cost mission for which Los Alamos provided three scientific instruments. At the recent news conference, which was held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, Feldman and other scientists described the observations and analyses that led them to conclude that crystals of water ice are scattered in small quantities throughout lunar soil in craters at the north and south poles that have regions permanently shaded from sunlight.
In a letter to Bill Feldman, who heads the Los Alamos team, DOE Secretary Peña said the following:
Congratulations to you and your team of researchers that helped make possible this week’s announcement that the Lunar Prospector has found evidence of water on the Moon. These exciting results show that research from the DOE’s national laboratories is truly out of this world. Besides demonstrating the value of the Nation’s investment in science and technology, discoveries like this excite and inspire young people to pursue science and engineering as careers.
The Los Alamos instrument package on the Lunar Prospector features an alpha particle spectrometer, a gamma-ray spectrometer, and a neutron spectrometer. The alpha particle spectrometer looks for signs of moon-emitted gases; the gamma-ray spectrometer measures elemental signatures from the moon’s surface; and the neutron spectrometer is the workhorse for detecting frozen water hidden in the lunar soil.
Other recent examples of Los Alamos contributions to space exploration include developing and providing the plutonium heat sources for thermal power to batteries and electronics on the Sojourner rover of the recent Pathfinder Mission to Mars. We have also developed the plutonium heat sources for all the deep-space explorations, including the recent Cassini mission that is enroute to Saturn.
Certifying the weapons in our nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing remains a daunting challenge to our Laboratory. I have provided examples throughout my testimony of recent successes in developing the necessary understanding of the entire nuclear weapons process from the physical principles underlying simulations to the details of manufacturing. These successes, along with the continued presence of the nuclear weapon designers and engineers who were responsible for developing the weapons in the stockpile, have allowed us to certify the Los Alamos nuclear weapons for the past two years. I am confident that we can continue along this path for the immediate future.
A very important ingredient in our confidence that we can maintain the stockpile is the commitment that the Congress and the executive branch have made to the Stockpile Stewardship Program. In the early 1990s, our scientists saw decreasing commitment by the federal government that lead to a very negative effect on our ability to retain and recruit people. Today, this trend has turned around and our laboratory is as strong as it has been in recent history, thanks in large part to your strong support of our well-defined mission. Creative people provide innovative solutions to difficult problems, such as those we face in stockpile stewardship, when they are not encumbered by a day-to-day concern over their immediate survival. We can see a path toward the future, but your continued commitment is critical to our success over the next decade. I strongly urge the committee to support the Stockpile Stewardship Program at the president’s budget level.
I also firmly believe that your support for a strong Stockpile Stewardship Program will provide us with the opportunity to make many other significant contributions to the nation in both the defense and civilian areas. Our programs in nonproliferation and counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction benefit directly from the talents of the people involved in the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Similarly, our basic and applied science efforts in the civilian arena allow us to attract some of the best people to our Laboratory, and their efforts in research and development have a synergistic effect on stockpile stewardship.
I am extremely enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to lead our great Laboratory as we move into the next century. My personal goal as Director is to create an atmosphere of innovation and productivity that attracts and retains the best people and leads to the successful accomplishment of our mission. Success will leave a legacy that can serve as the basis for future contributions to the nation in the next century.