Currently, the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD) share joint responsibility for nuclear weapons activities in the United States. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within the DOE is charged with “ensuring a credible U.S. nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing and includes operations associated with surveillance, assessment, maintenance, refurbishment, manufacture, and dismantlement of nuclear weapons in the stockpile, as well as research and development and certification efforts. The NNSA nuclear weapons complex is comprised of DOE weapons labs, manufacturing plants, and facilities that carry out this mission” (DATSD[NM]), 2011). The NNSA also serves as the major agency funding work in nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear emergency response. Nearly all programs within NNSA are recognized to depend on nuclear science as a core discipline and nuclear and radiochemistry are considered critical skills needed to successfully execute its broad-based missions (Pruet and Rahn 2011). Other departments and agencies funding work that requires the expertise of nuclear and radiochemists include the DOD, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, and organizations within the intelligence community. Work supporting national security missions is carried out not only in the nuclear weapons complex, but in other national laboratories and in academic institutions.
Rather than presenting an inventory of staffing needs for each agency discussed above, the committee looked at the utilization of nuclear and radiochemistry expertise by major program area (weapons, nonproliferation and arms control, counterterrorism, and homeland security) and the likely resulting directions workforce demands will take based on the technical needs and possible bounding scenarios (or policy decisions).
Nuclear Weapons Program
The earliest contributions of nuclear and radiochemists to the Manhattan Project in the 1940s were associated with the production and separation of fissionable material. As early as the Trinity test in 1945, nuclear and radiochemical methods were recognized for their potential use for diagnosing device performance. Within the nuclear weapons complex design laboratories (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL] and Los Alamos National Laboratory [LANL]), the traditional mission of nuclear and radiochemists was