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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 35, March 1999

US Department of Energy Statements & Testimony

Non-Proliferation Policy: Speech by Energy Secretary

Speech by US Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson to the National Press Club, Washington, 3 March 1999

"The FBI receives word of a phone threat that radioactive material is aboard an AMTRAK train in Montana and that its passengers are in danger. Within hours, specialists including the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Search Team arrive. Both the eastbound and westbound trains are diverted to a lonely stretch of track and searched for a potential killer. This is not a plot twist in a Tom Clancy thriller nor a figment of a Hollywood screenwriter's imagination. This incident occurred 20 February, aboard the Empire Builder in central Montana. No radioactive material was found. No one was injured. This time.

We have passed 50 years into the atomic age without a nuclear terrorist incident. We have not been so lucky in terms of other weapons of mass destruction. A few years ago in Tokyo, a fringe group released poison gas in a subway. Dozens were killed, thousands injured.

The lightning pace of technology has made chemical, biological and nuclear weapons more accessible than ever before. For the first time in human history, weapons of mass destruction powerful enough to rock the security of nations do not require national efforts for development, deployment or use.

President Clinton has declared that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological weapons - constitutes a national emergency. Speaking recently at the National Academy of Science, the President called on his cabinet to take aggressive steps to counter this emerging threat to American security and prosperity.

Today, I want to discuss the Department of Energy's response to the President's call for action. My focus is on the role - now and in the future - of the Department of Energy and our national laboratories in protecting the American people from these threats.

The Department of Energy, from its roots in the Manhattan Project, was and remains the primary agent for maintaining a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent. In this new era, we have the equally challenging job of drawing down our nuclear complex, keeping nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and containing the knowledge needed to make nuclear weapons.

This challenge is particularly difficult in Russia. Russia's system of protecting nuclear materials declined along with the Soviet police State, and worsens with the decay of their economy. Some see opportunities to exploit these difficulties - to illicitly obtain nuclear materials from Russia's production sites, or to purchase Russian nuclear know-how from the many scientists and engineers facing desperate economic circumstances.

At DOE we are uniquely positioned to address this nuclear threat. Our labs at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos developed the first atomic weapons. The Department is a central federal storehouse of information and expertise on nuclear weapons at home and abroad.

While the Department's work in nuclear sciences and technology is well known, our capabilities in the chemical and biological sciences are less familiar.

The Department's work in the biological sciences began with the study of radiation's effects on the human body. It continues today with efforts to sequence the human genome. These capabilities, joined with our national security expertise, uniquely position DOE to fight chemical and biological threats. America's security against nuclear, biological, and chemical dangers now hinges on creating tomorrow's tools today so we can defeat threats posed not by a Cold War-era totalitarian superpower but by terrorists, criminals and regimes such as those in Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The Department of Energy can - and will - help meet these threats. ... Prevent. Detect. Reverse. Respond. That is our defense-in-depth-concept. ...

Preventing Proliferation

One of the first jobs in our anti-proliferation effort at DOE is to help Russia secure its weapons-usable nuclear materials from theft or diversion by terrorists and rogue States. Nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium are the essential ingredients for a nuclear weapon and the hardest to obtain. For the most part, only nations can afford the industrial infrastructure and know-how needed to produce plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

So far, this reality has checked efforts by terrorist organizations to acquire crucial bomb materials. But imagine what might happen if a terrorist group gets enough plutonium for a bomb without having to manufacture it. Imagine if such a group could buy plutonium on the black market, or steal it from a place not properly secured.

It only takes a small quantity of these materials to produce a nuclear bomb - a piece of plutonium the size of a softball is enough to produce an explosion several times the size of that in Hiroshima in 1945.

That is why it is so important that we keep our nuclear materials highly secure, and fully accounted for. In Russia, the historic system of controls over nuclear facilities and materials has weakened, and resources are simply not available to maintain it. We have also learned that Russia's nuclear bookkeeping ignored modern systems of control and accounting and relied instead on police-State security measures.

Today, the Department of Energy and our national laboratories are working at more than 40 Russian sites to help secure nuclear materials and to install modern security and accounting systems. Our ability to establish this crucial program of cooperation - called the Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting Task Force - succeeded largely because of our laboratories. Scientists from DOE labs were able to gain access to Russian facilities by working on a laboratory-to-laboratory basis.

As we meet here today, dozens of dedicated DOE experts are at work in Russia installing basic safeguards, standards and procedures to arrange for the long-term protection of these weapons-grade materials.

We are proud of this program. Our Russian counterparts have shown us extraordinary goodwill and cooperation. We are now cooperating at virtually every single site in Russia that stores or uses plutonium or highly enriched uranium. To date we have completed security upgrades for over 30 metric tons of weapons usable nuclear materials. By the end of the year, we expect to bring an additional 20 tons under improved control. And by the end of 2000, we expect that number to double for a total of 100 metric tons.

But we harbor no illusions about the complexity of problems in Russia. The current economic crisis makes our efforts even more urgent. We have moved quickly to address special needs - such as providing basics like winter clothes, warm boots and space heaters to guards at facilities. It sounds simple, but this modest investment has kept guards at their posts and helped us keep our security work going through this volatile period.

Because of the critical importance of this issue, the President has requested an additional $4.5 billion over the next five years for urgent Russian National security programs. The Department anticipates an increase of $100 million for each of the next five years for our materials security programs, as well as several other Russian programs.

Included in the President's increased budget request are funds for DOE's program to help prevent Russian weapons scientists and engineers from selling their services to those seeking nuclear arms.

I was with the President in Russia last September, and have seen the hardships Russian nuclear workers face each day. As their nuclear complex downsizes, tens of thousands of nuclear experts living among the nuclear cities face unemployment or underemployment. We are seeking ways for them to channel their energy and expertise into new scientific and economic opportunities, to keep these scientists employed in Russia, instead of in Iraq or North Korea.

The danger of Russian nuclear materials or nuclear expertise falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue States is a matter of life and death for all of us. Just one of the 10 Russian nuclear cities stores more plutonium than the entire stockpile of France, China and Great Britain - combined.

To peacefully fight this threat, the Department has launched the Nuclear Cities Initiative. It is designed to develop - in cooperation with private industry - non-weapons jobs in the 10 Russian nuclear cities. Last September, I signed the Nuclear Cities Agreement with Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Adamov. Under this Initiative, we are planning projects such as:

  • establishing commercial software enterprises in the formerly secret nuclear cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk.
  • extending telecom links into these city centers and into Zheleznogorsk, our third focus city during FY 1999
  • and opening business centers in all three cities to spur commercial development. ...
Since 1994, we have employed more than 4,000 scientists at about 170 institutes and organizations throughout Russia and other Newly Independent States. This initiative has already attracted $38 million in private investment. ...

Let me describe one final Russia-related program in the area of prevention - our program to counter the smuggling of nuclear materials. Along with our work to account for and protect highly enriched uranium and plutonium stockpiles, we are stepping up efforts to stop nuclear smuggling. Through a program established years ago, the Department routinely provides technical and analytical support to the law enforcement, diplomatic, and intelligence communities for assessing black market nuclear transactions. We believe DOE has the world's most comprehensive database of global nuclear materials trafficking incidents and information.

Since the first 'sales' case came to our attention in 1978, DOE assessors have worked more than 525 black market cases, from attempted sales and buys to reported thefts. While the overwhelming majority of these incidents involve scams perpetrated by con-artists and opportunists, we must be on guard against any appearance of genuine plutonium and highly enriched uranium on the black market and any attempt to buy it by terrorist organizations or States.

DOE labs are already involved in programs to beef up efforts to thwart black market nuclear smuggling among law enforcement agencies of former Soviet and Eastern European nations. By next year, more than 200 border enforcement officials from 12 of these countries will have completed anti-proliferation training under the 'Joint International Border Security Program' with the US Customs Service and the Department of Defense. By 2002, we expect to have trained and provided specialized equipment to officials from all former Soviet and Eastern European countries.

Among the innovations our remarkable national laboratories have made in the field of detection is a nuclear materials detection device similar to a beeper. When it goes off, however, it is not your boss checking in or your spouse asking you to pick up a pizza on the way home. This tiny, hand-held device indicates the presence of radiation. It is already in use among law enforcement officers fighting nuclear smuggling here and in Europe.

Last summer, Bulgarian border officials seized nuclear production equipment headed for Iran. They credited their success to their Department of Energy-developed training and equipment. Today, portable detection technologies devised by DOE labs are being used in Poland, Lithuania, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Within the next year, systems will be deployed in Bulgaria, Romania, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Hungary. We are hopeful that nations once behind the Iron Curtain will now form a barrier to any nuclear terror spreading from Central Europe. ...

Detecting Proliferation

Detecting the proliferation of foreign nuclear weapons capabilities is an increasingly daunting task. A number of countries are seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. These nations and organizations take great pains to elude detection. For example, we are concerned about an underground facility at Kumchang-Ni in North Korea that could be intended for use as a nuclear facility. ...

The challenge is to detect and understand the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction at the earliest stage of development, to guide diplomatic actions and, if necessary, a military response. We must also deter the use of such weapons by being able to trace a weapon to its source before its use. Or, God forbid, after its use.

The Department of Energy laboratories are the nation's repository of expertise on nuclear weapons design and production. For more than 50 years, the nation has tapped this resource in assessing foreign nuclear weapons programs. The labs have also supplied detection technologies to monitor these programs.

Our technology will get even better. Because it must. Rogue countries, terrorists and the suppliers of the nuclear, biological, and chemical tools of their trade are using increasingly sophisticated means to evade detection. Our methods and technology must outpace this growing threat.

There is no simple solution to this problem, and DOE alone cannot solve it. But through advances in technology and analysis techniques, we can make a quantum leap in our ability to detect and understand these threats. Within the next 12 months, I challenge our labs, in cooperation with our interagency partners, to identify technical breakthroughs which, if successful, will revolutionize our proliferation detection capabilities. I am not seeking baby steps but giant strides. I am seeking ten-fold to hundred-fold improvements in performance by the year 2005.

Detecting nuclear weapons requires not only better technology, but also better ways of interpreting the information that is gathered. DOE labs now analyze information about proliferation from a variety of different sources without systematic coordination with other labs. Our labs can provide the best capability in the country for analyzing information on nuclear proliferation. To fulfill this potential, they must work together as a unit. We must form a network to harness the powerful tools, of knowledge and information available in our national laboratories.

Therefore, today I am also directing our national labs to form a Nuclear Proliferation Data Exploitation Center. I want them to focus their expertise in nuclear-related design, production and technology in a joint effort to develop new tools and methods in the study of nuclear proliferation. I expect this Center to provide rapid, first-rate scientific support to the US Intelligence Community. To ensure this, I am pulling together an interagency steering group to help guide its formation.


It is not enough to be able to detect nuclear proliferation as it starts. We must also continue to reduce the number of our nuclear weapons, and the nuclear materials from which those weapons are made.

The Energy Department is advancing global arms control by carrying out nuclear reductions of historic proportions. We have already dismantled more than 11,000 nuclear weapons. And if we meet the President's goal of further reductions under the START III framework, we will have drawn down our deployed arsenal by 80 percent compared to its Cold War peak. The next level in strategic arms reductions calls for warheads themselves to be eliminated in cooperation with our Russian partners.

The challenge will not end once these weapons are taken apart. In some ways it is just beginning. We must dispose of the excess nuclear material harvested from that process, to neutralize it, to keep it out of the hands of nations, groups or individuals with an agenda of terror and destruction.

And while securing nuclear materials in place itself boosts global security, our mission in Russia goes beyond that. Excess materials in the United States and Russia must be disposed of lest they fall into the wrong hands. Congress, too, recognizes the urgency of this mission, and appropriated $525 million in emergency funding this year to help speed up our efforts to dispose of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The US is beginning to blend down its surplus highly enriched uranium for peaceful use in commercial reactor fuel and we are pushing an agreement with Russia to buy 500 metric tons of their HEU. Already through this agreement, 36 tons of such Russian uranium has been blended down and delivered to America for use as reactor fuel. Think about it: enough nuclear material for over 2,500 nuclear weapons has been transferred from one former mortal enemy to another.

Disposing of plutonium is much more complicated - but we're making progress. We have reached understandings with Russia on the basics of a mutual effort to dispose of up to 50 tons of weapons plutonium. Within the next three years we will begin constructing the US facilities needed to achieve this mission. We recognize that Russia cannot address this problem alone. We are working with the G-8 countries and others to find ways to support Russia's plutonium disposal effort, and are collaborating with Russian scientists to create and implement a technology road map for the Russian program.


... You may be familiar with our long-established program to respond to nuclear emergencies. Today, I want to describe our work to respond to the chemical and biological threat. ... [W]e are engaging our laboratories in an aggressive effort to help with this urgent fight by developing the next generation of chemical and biological detection systems.

Right now, detecting the presence of a chem-bio agent can take days with equipment that fills a room in a laboratory. Our DOE labs have just developed an instrument the size of a suitcase that can detect a biological agent within hours by decoding its DNA. This giant leap forward essentially brings our labs into the field.

But we can't stop there. Within three years, I want our labs to develop biological agent detectors small enough to fit into the hand of a fireman or a cop that tells within seconds if a chem-bio agent is present. And what kind of agent it is, such as whether it is anthrax or a plague virus.

The fast detection of the release of a dangerous agent could turn a medical nightmare into a manageable problem. With the right detection tools, health and safety officials can act quickly to treat victims and protect others from exposure.

There's more: I have challenged our best and brightest in the national laboratories to develop, demonstrate and deliver the first phase of a biological detection system - an integrated network of sensors and analytical software - that will help us protect critical assets such as subway systems, or major events such as a Super Bowl or the Olympics. I've challenged our national laboratories to complete this important system by 2002 - in time to make it available for use at the Olympics in Salt Lake City.

This will not be easy. Because of that, we must start immediately. We have a unique responsibility to temper this threat and defuse its dangers. The Department of Energy is committed to fulfilling this responsibility. To support this urgent mission, I have requested an increase in funds of nearly 70 percent for our chem-bio defense efforts next year - raising our total request to $32 million in FY 2000 for this critical work. ..."

Source: Text - Richardson says DOE helps promote Russian nuclear safety, United States Information Service, 2 March.

Stockpile Stewardship

Statement of Dr. Victor H. Reis, Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, Department of Energy, before the House Armed Services Military Procurement Subcommittee Hearing, 4 March 1999

"How Stockpile Stewardship is Working

For the benefit of new Committee members, I will briefly summarize the Stockpile Stewardship process and the challenges it now faces before I go into a more detailed discussion of program elements. Each year representative samples of each type of weapon are returned to Pantex from the active forces and are disassembled, examined, tested, and analyzed for defects, much as you would go for an annual physical or take your car into your local automobile mechanic. If any defects are found, their effect on reliability and safety is assessed. If that effect is deemed significant, the defective part is remanufactured and replaced ­ and a nuclear weapon has about as many parts as a modern automobile. Like the battery or spark plugs in your car, some parts, for example, neutron generators and gas reservoirs, require replacement at regular intervals. Other parts of a nuclear weapon are made from radioactive materials which decay such as plutonium, enriched uranium and tritium; and as they decay, may change both their own properties and the properties of other materials within the weapon.

Remanufacturing replacement parts sounds simple, but subsequent to the time that many of the current weapons in the stockpile were originally manufactured, some of our production plants have been closed and manufacturing processes, techniques and standards have changed. General Motors does not build cars the same way it did 40 years ago. Everyone is more health and safety conscious and more concerned about waste. Today, replacement parts require even tighter production controls than the extraordinarily rigid standards under which the original parts were designed and manufactured. A nuclear weapon, less than the size of a small desk, has enough explosive power to completely destroy a modern city, and yet it must be able to survive extraordinary accidents with less than a one-in-a-million chance of exploding. New industrial materials and new manufacturing processes make it hard to get exact replacement parts for an old car or appliance. Yet, we must produce replacements with modern material and processes that will still maintain weapons safety and reliability.

As our stockpile weapons age we expect more parts to become defective - just as with our automobiles. Because new warheads have not been produced since 1989, we cannot replace old weapons with new ones. In addition, our weapons designers with nuclear testing experience are also aging. In about ten years, most of them will have retired. This means that as our newest system, the W88, reaches the end of its original design life in 2014, and we may no longer have anyone with the necessary job experience to perform underground testing of nuclear weapons. Similarly, the engineers and technicians who originally produced even this newest weapon may also be gone. It is this time factor that is critical to the success of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

Since we cannot do a complete underground test of a nuclear explosion, we can divide the explosion sequence into each of its parts, then test and analyze each of these separately, much as you would test the ignition system, the cooling system, and the brakes on your car. We plan to put all the data together into a computer and develop simulations to see if the resulting performance is within specification. Each part of the simulation must predict the results of each of the separate tests, and where they exist, the results must be consistent with data from previous underground nuclear tests. We have already begun this process.

Stockpile Life Extension and Surveillance

We are working closely with the DoD to finalize detailed plans to extend the lifetime of each weapon system in the stockpile. The Stockpile Life Extension Program (SLEP) is DOE's planning framework for a proactive management of system maintenance activities. Under SLEP, options are developed to address potential refurbishment actions. These options address correcting known problems, preventing foreseeable problems, and improving safety and use control. These life extension options allow the Department and DoD to anticipate and plan for future resource requirements such as workforce, skill mix, equipment, and facilities.

These requirements provide the framework for stockpile refurbishment workload and stockpile research and development activities at our laboratories and provide guidance for our production plants in the design and certification of replacement components, validation of new materials, and development and certification of new manufacturing processes. The cycle is continuous and is closely integrated. Data and information from our surveillance programs and from the hundreds of experiments and simulations being performed to help identify which parts of a weapon are aging gracefully and which parts present current and potential future problems.

Stockpile surveillance has been a major element of the US nuclear weapons program ever since the first weapons were put into service. Approximately 100 stockpile weapons are thoroughly examined each year. The results provide data not only for assessing the current safety and reliability of the stockpile, but also for developing predictive models and age-focused diagnostics required to anticipate weapons refurbishment requirements.

The technologies and methods, as well as a fundamental understanding of materials properties and weapons science, to significantly improve detection and predictive capabilities are being developed in the Enhanced Surveillance Program (ESP). An aging mechanism in a stockpile high explosive was identified through the ESP, ultimately concluding that the changes actually improved the stability of the explosive. This assessment is permitting the reuse of the high explosive during the W87 life extension program, thus avoiding significant costs. We have also embarked on a novel strategy to accelerate the aging process in plutonium. The capability to predict the lifetime of components made from plutonium will permit us to more accurately identify when pit replacements are needed and when facility investments must be made in order to support pit replacement.

Dual revalidation is designed to provide a baseline assessment of the condition of weapons in our aging stockpile. Two teams, one from the laboratory that originally designed and developed a weapon and the second from the other weapons laboratory, are performing in-depth evaluations of the weapon's ability to meet revalidated military requirements. The W76 is the first weapon to be reviewed. Each team has performed at least one system hydrotest on the W76, and they have collaborated on a Shipboard Vibration Test. The review of the W76 will be completed in December 1999. The dual revalidation peer review program not only baselines the weapon system, but also provides an excellent opportunity for experienced designers to pass their skills on to the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Manufacturing Capabilities

Manufacturing continues to play a critical role in the Stockpile Stewardship Program. During FY 1998, almost 1,000 Limited Life Components (LLCs) were produced. Plans call for the production of over 1,300 LLCs in FY 1999. These product deliveries signal the successful transfer of production activities from plants which have been closed. The weapons complex is also performing major refurbishment actions on several weapon types, including the B83, B61, and the W87. In December 1998, the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge completed and shipped to Pantex the first refurbished component for the life extension program of the W87 under our Stockpile Life Extension Program. Earlier this month, the first deliveries of electronic and mechanical parts for the W87 life extension were shipped to Pantex from the Kansas City plant. The first W87 life extension unit will be assembled at Pantex by the end of this month with the first group of units due for delivery to the Air Force in May. This is considered a major milestone in meeting a DOE commitment made to the Air Force.

The Advanced Manufacturing Design and Production Technologies Initiative (ADAPT) is providing the manufacturing complex with advanced capabilities for: designing, developing, and certifying components and systems; and for producing, assembling, and delivering the components and systems products. ADAPT is radically changing how DOE supports the nuclear weapons stockpile by infusing new product and process technologies, and by adopting state-of-the-art business and engineering practices. Our production complex must take advantage of modern manufacturing techniques. As an example, a secure communications and data network was established among the production plants and laboratories which is facilitating rapid interchange of design and manufacturing information related to the W87 life extension program. In the future, this will serve as the backbone of a modern simulation product realization environment. The network is already reducing the time needed to produce classified parts, in some instances up to 90 percent.

We remain committed to maintaining a robust and world-class microelectronics capability at Sandia National Laboratories. This effort will allow us to both develop and exploit emerging technologies that show great promise for miniaturizing weapon components and improving their reliability and for maintaining a critical capability in radiation-hardened electronics needed to address the threat environments of the future. ...

While our production workload is certainly far smaller than in the past, the demands on our manufacturing processes have actually increased. Let me explain what I mean. We now know how critical baseline data is to stockpile certification in the absence of underground testing. Understanding how parts change over time involves comparing old and new parts. In the past, our production facilities built components with a primary focus on staying within design and process specifications. However, we have learned that seemingly insignificant variations in products or processes at the time of manufacture can often be the key to component lifetime and hence to weapon performance.

Thus, we have significantly expanded the amount and type of baseline data, critical to modeling, collected during production. We now record much more than just the product specifications. We collect information on the physical and chemical properties of individual parts as well as the constituent raw materials. New parts receive significant analysis using new technologies and characterization tools covering the full scale from the microscopic to macroscopic level. Processes are also being re-instrumented to capture key parameters during production. All information is collected in readily accessible databases. The future of certification relies, in part, on our ability to accurately record the condition of parts as they were built. These investments in baselining tools and technologies will continue across the complex with future life extension activities.

We are continuing to right-size and modernize our production complex for the 21st Century. The Stockpile Management Restructuring Initiative (SMRI) is the first step and includes the tritium facilities at the Savannah River Site; uranium machining, recycling and storage facilities at the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant; assembly and high explosive fabrication facilities at the Pantex Plant; and non nuclear production facilities for electronic, electro-optical devices, plastic and machined parts at the Kansas City Plant.

A pit production capability is being reestablished at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a capability the DOE has not had since the closure of the Rocky Flats Plant in 1989. A W88 first development unit pit was successfully produced last year and by 2001, the first pit for stockpile use will be produced. By 2007, LANL will have a limited capability to manufacture replacement pits for the units destroyed during surveillance activities.

The final phase of a five year process to resume enriched uranium operations at the Oak Ridge Y 12 Plant will be completed in FY 1999. The Kansas City Plant has now been qualified for the production of tritium gas reservoirs for the W76, W78 and W80 warheads and Sandia National Laboratories will soon have a new production facility on-line for neutron generators and will deliver almost 300 units in FY 2000.

In November 1998, the Heartland supercomputer, one of the largest and most powerful computer systems operating in a North American manufacturing facility was installed at the Kansas City Plant. This system is quickly becoming a key asset in solving production problems by simulating production processes with some of the same software that is used in engineering and physics simulation on weapon systems and which would previously have required very expensive prototypes. For example, the Heartland supercomputer has been used to evaluate new forge weld designs on such products as the W87 reservoir transfer tube, to determine process parameters for filling electronic systems with foam for structural integrity, and to evaluate soldering techniques in the radar systems for the B83 and B61.

In addition, over 1,000 nuclear warheads were safely dismantled at the Pantex Plant in FY 1998, approximately 275 dismantlements will be completed in FY 1999, and 375 dismantlements are planned for FY 2000. The decrease in quantity after FY 1998 does not reflect a decrease in workload because the systems remaining to be dismantled involve more complicated procedures and therefore, require additional time and resources. Dismantlements resulting from the nation's response to START I, however, will essentially be completed by FY 2001.

In December 1998, Secretary Richardson announced that a review of the management structure throughout the DOE would be conducted. Until this review is completed, no decision will be made on the Department's proposal to consolidate contracts at our defense weapon production facilities. Under this concept, the management and operating contract for the Kansas City Plant in Kansas City, Missouri, the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, would be consolidated into a single contract to improve programmatic performance and integration. ...

Experimental Programs

It is at the DOE's Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and at the Nevada Test Site that the science base of the Stockpile Stewardship Program is developed. Experimentation is how, in the absence of nuclear testing, we divide the physics of the explosive sequence into each of its parts, and analyze each separately. Information that we have from the production and surveillance activities described previously, helps us to focus our experimental work. Information that we have from over 1,000 US nuclear tests also tell us what we don't know and where we need to fill in gaps in our knowledge through experiment and observation.

Hundreds of experiments, large and small, are performed each year in support of Stockpile Stewardship. Subcritical experiments performed at the Nevada Test Site have received considerable publicity. The sixth subcritical experiment, Clarinet, took place on 9 February, 1999. This experiment was the second of three originally planned for FY 1999; however, our current plan is to perform some additional smaller experiments and possibly one more complex experiment. Two subcritical experiments are planned for FY 2000 and additional smaller experiments are being considered.

Subcritical experiments provide empirical data on the high pressure behavior of plutonium; realistically benchmarking data on the dynamic, non-nuclear behavior of components in today's stockpile; analyzing the effects of remanufacturing techniques; understanding the effects of aging materials; and addressing other technical issues. Information from these experiments will be key to qualifying the pit production capability at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), as well as certifying the performance of weapons which will contain the replacement pits. These experiments also contribute significantly to the maintenance of the critical infrastructure and educational base of skilled personnel at the Nevada Test Site. In addition to helping us understand the effects of aging on plutonium, these experiments are key to our test readiness program. Subcritical experiments are consistent with the safeguards under which the President has recommended ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty...

We do a good job of investigating the first part of the nuclear explosion; that is, the implosion of the plutonium pit by high explosive, with non-nuclear experiments. We can measure a number of important features by taking x-ray pictures during critical parts of the experiment. We can then compare these pictures with calculations and with previous data from the more than 1,000 underground nuclear tests and 14,000 surveillance tests. During FY 1998, we conducted some 50 non-nuclear hydrotests at the Pulsed High Energy Radiographic Machine Emitting X-rays (PHERMEX) and the Flash X-Ray (FXR) machine facilities at LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). We will do approximately the same number in FY 1999 and in FY 2000. In addition, we plan to conduct approximately 150 less complex experiments per year aimed at understanding and answering questions about high-explosives behavior and explosive effects on materials.

Experiments using the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) are investigating proton radiography, a new technique in which proton beams from a linear accelerator are used directly in a novel approach to hydrodynamics-radiography that, if successful, could provide additional information to our process of certifying pits. This technique is one of the candidate technologies being considered to make detailed, three-dimensional 'motion pictures' of the implosion process. Smaller-scale dynamic proton radiography experiments have already been performed at LANSCE to address important certification issues (e.g., cold high-explosives performance), paving the way for validation of advanced explosives simulation models.

This year we will be conducting a series of measurements at the Brookhaven National Laboratory as a next step in evaluating protons for weapon radiography. Such technology could be used in an advanced hydrotest facility. Accelerator experiments are also being used to probe basic properties of weapons materials that have a direct bearing on the functional lifetime, hydrodynamic behavior, nuclear performance, aging and corrosion of weapons materials and components. Based on these experiments, data can be extracted on equation of state, strength, microstructure, and aging properties of weapons materials.

In the area of inertial confinement fusion (ICF), the Department is conducting an aggressive research program to support the stockpile. In order to transfer resources to the National Ignition Facility project, the Nova laser at LLNL is scheduled for shutdown in 1999. Program emphasis will shift to the Omega laser at the University of Rochester. About 1,300 shots are planned for Omega in FY 2000. A major activity at Omega in FY 1999-2000 will be installation and operation of a cryogenic target handling system in preparation for deuterium-tritium cryogenic fuel implosion experiments.

In 1998, the Z-pulsed power facility at Sandia National Laboratories achieved a record x-ray energy and temperature levels. In 1999 and 2000, we plan to conduct about 160 shots in Z in the areas of weapons effects, weapons physics and NIF ignition. The major activity in Z over the next two years will be the installation of the Beamlet laser from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which will be used as a diagnostic on Z. This diagnostic will enhance investigations in all areas. The ICF program is implementing a detailed multi-laboratory national ignition plan to achieve ignition and to address other stewardship issues during NIF operations.

These, and other experimental facilities that are on line or under construction, are expected to give us a set of tools sufficient to investigate and understand anticipated problems in the stockpile. Whenever feasible, the goal is to obtain data experimentally by more than one method in order to improve our confidence in the associated physics models being used in the advanced Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) simulation codes.

Progress on Major Experimental Facilities

Construction is well underway for three major facilities that are essential to the long-term success of the Stockpile Stewardship Program - the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DARHT), and Atlas. NIF, the world's largest laser, will enable our scientists to generate conditions of temperature and pressure approaching those that occur in nuclear weapons. Demonstrations of how aged or changed materials could behave under these unique conditions will provide data essential to test the validity of computer based predictions. The NIF building is about 47 percent completed. The siding and roofing were completed in November 1998. A major event this summer will be the installation of the target chamber. The first NIF experiments are planned to begin in October 2001 using eight of 192 laser beams. The NIF is expected to be completed on schedule in October 2003, and on budget at $1.2 billion.

We continue making good progress in completing the DARHT facility. This facility will examine the shape and size of an imploding pit model from two different directions with greatly improved radiographic resolution. DARHT will also demonstrate a capability of multi-pulsing to obtain pictures at more than one point in the implosion process. Construction of the facility to house the x-ray machines was completed and the first arm of the facility, using a single pulse accelerator, will be operational with experiments scheduled to begin this summer. Design and prototyping of the second arm is well underway and this multi-pulse machine is scheduled for completion in FY 2002.

The Atlas pulsed power facility is under construction at LANL. The design of Atlas is complete, the large and long-lead procurements have been placed, and the assembly of the first segment of the machine is underway. The Atlas facility is scheduled to be completed and commence operations in 2000. Atlas will provide an improved capability to conduct hydrodynamic experiments for assessment of secondary assemblies in nuclear weapons.

Simulation and Computation

The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) is developing the high-performance computational modeling and numerical simulation capabilities necessary to integrate theory, existing data, and new experimental data to predict results that can be verified and validated. The ASCI program, a collaborative effort between the Government and US industry, is developing the world's fastest, most powerful computational and advanced simulation and modeling capabilities. These advanced supercomputers are needed to complete the shift from nuclear test based methods to science-based methods and to assess and certify the safety, security, and reliability of the stockpile without underground nuclear testing.

Advanced computational capabilities that include application codes, computing platforms, and various tools and techniques, are being developed under ASCI and incorporated into ongoing stockpile computational activities. This technology is being developed at about twice the rate of commercial computing speed and power advances. ASCI has been highly successful in meeting its milestones and providing effective new tools to support stockpile stewardship. Information developed from other elements of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, such as NIF and our subcritical experiments, will provide the basic physics models and data for ASCI simulations.

At the end of FY 1998, ASCI unveiled its second generation of computing systems. Two major systems capable of running in excess of three trillion operations per second (3 teraops) peak speed were delivered ahead of schedule and within budget. Blue Pacific, developed by IBM, is located at LLNL, and Blue Mountain, developed by Silicon Graphics, Inc., is located at LANL. These systems are each 15,000 times faster and have roughly 80,000 times the memory of the average personal desktop computer. On February 12, 1998, the Department announced the selection of IBM to partner with ASCI on the Option White 10 teraops supercomputer to be located at LLNL. Building upon the experience and knowledge gained with the 3 teraops Blue Mountain system, LANL will conduct a procurement for a computational system that will achieve a peak performance level of 30 teraops by mid-year 2001. And the Department's first generation, Option Red Intel computer system, installed at Sandia National Laboratories in 1996, with a peak speed of 1.8 trillion operations per second is now operating in production mode.

The unprecedented computational power of ASCI is also being made available to selected groups in the university community through the Academic Strategic Alliances Program. In 1997, the Department awarded contracts to five major US universities - Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, the University of Utah and the University of Illinois. The work of the university teams will be of similar difficulty and complexity to that needed for Stockpile Stewardship and provide another benchmark by which we can assess the accuracy of our own work. These projects are expected to lead to major advances in computer simulation technologies as well as to discoveries in basic and applied science; areas important to ASCI, the broader Stockpile Stewardship Program, and other application areas. Applications being developed and run by the university teams are unclassified and deal with significant non defense scientific, economic and social priorities.

We are already utilizing the capabilities of the newly installed ASCI platforms to support assessment of the stockpile. Specifically, we have run the highest resolution safety simulation of a stockpile weapon, and we have run a 3-dimensional simulation that will help explain a 'mystery' from the nuclear test archives, that is relevant to our current program. We have run simulations to support the certifications of the B61 modification and the W76 neutron generator. These simulations would not have been possible without the capability provided by the ASCI platforms performing at the teraops level. However, in order to simulate a 3-dimensional full-system weapon and its performance as defined by nuclear weapons designers, scientists, and engineers at DOE national laboratories, we must scale the current capability to the 100 teraops level by 2004.

The FY 2000 request for the ASCI and Computations program operating budget, which totals $543 million, is about 12 percent higher than the FY 1999 request. In addition, $114 million for simulation activities that previously were part of the ASCI program plan and $36 million for construction projects to house ASCI computers is requested. The FY 2000 request is in line with planned increases resulting from advances in code development work and with simulations that necessitate additional memory, storage, and networking capability. It continues the momentum in both hardware development and acquisition to obtain computers capable of sustained operations of 100 teraops level by 2004. It also permits building 3-D computer codes, which in conjunction with the other experimental programs such as inertial confinement fusion, are aimed at providing the required levels of fidelity in weapons simulations.

Two new computational initiatives begun in FY 1999 will continue in FY 2000. The Distributed Computing at a Distance (DisCom2) project develops key computing and communications technologies that will enable DP laboratories and plants to apply high-end computing across thousands of miles, to meet the urgent design, analysis, and engineering needs of Stockpile Stewardship. The Numerical Environment for Weapons Simulations (NEWS) will create data exploration super corridors at the weapons laboratories to support large-scale data analysis for researchers and weapons assessment teams. ...


These are but a selection of the broad range of on-going planned Stockpile Stewardship Program activities. Let me reemphasize that the current stockpile is well tested and well understood. The designers and engineers who built our existing weapons are still available and are still active. Indeed they are the ones who are creating the Stockpile Stewardship Program. They are the ones who are working on the stockpile now, and are helping to train their successors. We are mindful, however, that the clock is ticking on both the design life spans of the weapons, and the career spans of test-experienced designers, engineers, and production experts. We have an unprecedented, but time sensitive, challenge to put in place both the tools and the people that will carry us beyond test-based expertise to science-based expertise for the future. …"

Source: Department of Energy web-site, http://www.doe.gov

Surplus Plutonium Disposal:
Press Release

'Energy Department Selects Private Sector Team to Help Dispose of Surplus Plutonium,' DOE Press Release, DOE Press Release R-99-050, 22 March 1999

"The US Department of Energy (DOE) has contracted with Duke Engineering & Services, COGEMA, Inc., and Stone & Webster to provide mixed oxide fuel fabrication and reactor irradiation services in support of the department's mission to dispose of surplus weapons plutonium. ...

'It is critical that the United States and Russia dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium so that it will never again be used in nuclear weapons,' said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. 'This partnership with private sector companies sets the stage for Russia and the United States to work together to eliminate tons of excess plutonium.'

Under the contract announced today, DCS will design, provide construction management services, operate and deactivate a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility. The team will also modify six existing US commercial light water reactors at three sites to irradiate mixed oxide fuel assemblies. These reactor sites are Catawba in York, SC; McGuire in Huntersville, NC; and North Anna in Mineral, VA. ...

The United States plans to use two technologies to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. One uses some surplus plutonium as mixed oxide fuel in existing domestic commercial reactors, with subsequent disposal of the spent fuel in a geologic repository. The other involves immobilizing surplus plutonium in a ceramic material surrounded by high-level waste, followed by disposal in a geologic repository.

Both technologies are being pursued because they provide important insurance against unexpected difficulties with the implementation of either technology by itself. This hybrid strategy also provides the United States with flexibility and leverage in negotiations with Russia on the critical task of reducing Russian excess plutonium.

DOE is selecting a contractor to provide these fabrication and irradiation services in parallel with determining the location for the fuel fabrication facility. The department is preparing a Surplus Plutonium Disposition Environmental Impact Statement that analyzes the potential environmental impacts associated with establishing plutonium disposition facilities at DOE sites. Those sites are: the Hanford Reservation near Richland, WA; the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory near Idaho Falls, ID; the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX; and the Savannah River Site near Aiken, SC. In June, 1998, DOE announced that the DOE Savannah River Site was the preferred site for the mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility. The Record of Decision on this environmental review is expected this summer."

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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