long-term problems of resources and institutional support, but it is a good beginning that provides a structure within which a solution may be reached.


The national security laboratories maintain S&E research in diverse areas that are broadly related to their mission areas. Some of this S&E, such as plutonium science, is unique to their core mission of nuclear weapons, and it must be supported in these laboratories in order for them to do their mission. The laboratories also conduct research in areas that, while related to their core mission, are not unique to the core. An example is astrophysics, which is directly applicable to some fundamental parts of nuclear weapon explosion codes, but where research is also done in universities. The principal reason given by the laboratories for conducting research in these areas is that it allows them to attract high quality people who then contribute to the programmatic mission areas during their careers in the laboratory.

The quality of the research conducted in the laboratories is clearly an important part of being able to attract good people. Each laboratory maintains post-doctoral research programs that are popular and highly competitive. The laboratories cite their post-doctoral programs as one of the most important sources of permanent S&E staff.

The staff recruited into the laboratories because of the S&E research programs have contributed significantly to the core mission. Laboratory leaders told the study committee that essentially all the people recruited into basic research activities have spent time working on core mission projects. Many transfer to full time participation in the applied programs. Others stay in the research organization and spend part of their time contributing to applied programs.

An example of the latter can be found in the Hydrodynamics Group in the Theoretical Physics Division at LANL. This is primarily a basic research group, but over many years a former group leader and other staff members have made significant contributions to the hydrodynamics portions of the nuclear weapons codes.

There are many examples in each laboratory of staff who were recruited to the laboratory to work in fundamental (basic) research activities, and who have subsequently moved into the core applied programs. In addition, some of these people have taken on major leadership roles in the nuclear weapons program. Specific data on career paths are not available. However, the following examples were provided by senior laboratory management:

•   LLNL cites transfers from inertial fusion research into nuclear weapon design, and in at least one case a person has taken on a major leadership responsibility in the weapons program. Other transfers are from chemistry research into the design of insensitive explosives for weapons, and from basic materials research into plutonium metallurgy.

•   LANL cites transfers of people from basic materials research into plutonium science, and points out that one of those people served as the director of the laboratory. Notable among the other transfers are people recruited to do research in theoretical astrophysics moving into nuclear weapon design, one of whom is currently a laboratory research fellow.

•   Finally, SNL cites transfers from a number of basic research areas. One such transfer is from research and code development in radiation hydrodynamics in to the nuclear weapons program. This individual became vice president and chief engineer. Another started work in chemical kinetics and multiphase fluid dynamics and moved into the weapons program and held several leadership positions including deputy chief engineer.

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