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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 55, March 2001

Lawrence Livermore Lab Scientist Quits over Weapons Work

On March 15, Isaac Trotts, a 25-year old computer scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, announced he was resigning in protest against nuclear weapons development and enhancement aspects of the US 'Stockpile Stewardship Programme' (SSP) about which, by his account, he was not fully informed. In an open letter to his co-scientists at the laboratory, Trotts writes:

"During my [hiring] interview with LLNL [in October 2000], I asked about the nature of 'Stockpile Stewardship'. I was assured that no new weapons development was taking place... I thought I would be helping to keep the nuclear weapons from accidentally detonating or polluting the environment with radioactive material... Lawrence Livermore deceived me, both during the interview and afterwards... Five months after the interview, I found out that the 'Stockpile Stewardship' Programme was - and still is - much more aggressive than I had been led to believe."

Specifically, Trotts pointed to the connection between the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), where he was mainly employed, and enhancements provided to the B61 nuclear warhead, providing it with an ability to penetrate to underground targets: "I found that, according to the State Department web site, 'The B61-11 development effort demonstrated a full range of stockpile stewardship capabilities... the certification effort took advantage of the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative capabilities...' I now had incontrovertible evidence that the ASCI programme...had played an important role in enhancing the B61. I had ample reason to believe that future alterations of this sort would be performed in the future. I resigned."

Reacting to Trotts' announcement, former LLNL scientist Andreas Toupadakis, who resigned for similar reasons of conscience in January this year, argued (March 15): "By his action, Isaac has served the whole of humanity. Others will follow. ... We have done our duty."

Note: see last issue for the text and details of an international 'Scientists and Engineers' Pledge to Renounce Weapons of Mass Destruction,' opened for signature on February 16.

Reports: Livermore lab scientist quits 'stockpile stewardship' program, calls lab hiring practices deceptive, Tri-Valley CAREs Press Release, March 15; Engineer quits, blasts Livermore lab, San Francisco Chronicle, March 16; ex-lab scientist 'misled' about weapons development, Tri-Valley Herald, March 16.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.