Page 123

Department of Energy's Office of the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (hereinafter called the Office of Defense Programs): Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia. These laboratories today have a central mission—reducing the global nuclear danger—that involves extraordinary challenges in stockpile stewardship, in nonproliferation and arms control, in nuclear materials management, and in the cleanup of the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons activities. They have also shouldered other important responsibilities as the government has recognized new issues that affect the nation's physical and economic security and that require technological solutions. Examples include global climate dynamics, new energy sources, counterterrorism (including chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction), environmental protection and remediation, and biomedical technologies.

To succeed in their missions, it is essential that the laboratories have access to excellent science and technology. The core technical competencies that have been established in crucial areas such as high-energy-density physics, nuclear physics, hydrodynamics, computational science, and advanced materials are the cornerstones supporting the laboratories. The facilities and scientific manpower concentrated in these areas are the result of years of government investment. The laboratories are also supported by a network of contacts to the outside world, including university researchers, industrial partners, and Department of Defense scientists. These interactions are important both in leveraging scientific strength and in recruiting new talent to the laboratories.

The Laboratories and Global Nuclear Dangers

The invention of nuclear weapons was one of the defining events of the 20th century. The political and military legacy of this invention is now exceedingly complex. The underlying physics of atomic weapons is widely understood and accessible to the scientists of many nations. Indeed, the original technology dates to more than 50 years ago, when most movies were black and white, telephones needed operators, and radio had not yet been supplanted by television. Fissile material, once a great barrier to entering the nuclear community, now exists in great quantities in the United States, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere. Estimates of this stockpile range from 100,000 to 1,000,000 kg, while the amount needed for a bomb is about 10 kg. There is great concern that not all of this fissile material is confined to politically stable parts of the world.

The rapid lowering of the barrier to the nuclear club led the United



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement