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Review of the Department of Energy's Inertial Confinement Fusion Program: The National Ignition Facility
cannot dismiss the possibility, however unlikely, that the program will fall short of its objectives. . . .In the event that I were informed by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy. . . that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapons type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, I would be prepared, in consultation with Congress, to exercise our "supreme national interests" rights under the CTBT in order to conduct whatever testing might be required. . . .The nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal are safe and reliable, and I am determined our stockpile stewardship program will ensure they remain so in the absence of nuclear testing.
In September 1996, the United States and more than 90 nations signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. According to international law, the United States, by virtue of its signing of the treaty, is already enjoined from nuclear testing, although the treaty has not entered into full force.
SCIENCE BASED STOCKPILE STEWARDSHIP
There has long been a formal program2 to assess the nuclear stockpile and to deal with problems of safety and reliability as they have arisen. This program has included destructive and nondestructive studies of the physical, dynamic, geometrical, mechanical, metallurgical, and chemical properties of weapons and their components; testing, both nuclear and nonnuclear, has played a central role, but only nonnuclear testing will continue under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This surveillance program has, in fact, uncovered problems in the U.S. stockpile, some of which have affected large numbers of devices and required significant resources to resolve. To date, the DOE has been able to address all such identified problems and to certify the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile. However, it is almost certain that other problems will arise and be identified as the current stockpile ages and as advancing analytical skills are brought to the surveillance program. Only very limited nuclear test data are available on weapons with long stockpile sojourns.
The SBSS program is one element of the Stockpile Stewardship Management Program designed to ensure that the no-testing regime remains robust into the future and that the United States will not have to invoke its "supreme national interests" option and resume nuclear testing. 3 Its central challenge is to maintain a continuing capability to anticipate, detect, and evaluate actual and potential problems related to aging in the enduring nuclear stockpile and to plan for refurbishment and remanufacture as required.4 Meeting this challenge requires the development of increased technical understanding of weapons and weapons-related technologies, including the underlying science, to permit confident prediction, without nuclear testing, of the effects of aging on the safety and performance of weapons. This responsibility includes preserving the core intellectual and technical competencies of the DOE weapons laboratories. It involves enhanced surveillance of the stockpile and remediation of defects as they arise. SBSS entails improving the National Laboratories' experimental capabilities and enhancing their computational capabilities. The decision to undertake a policy of SBSS implies moving in the direction of first-principles predictive capability in hydrodynamics and radiation transport. The advanced stockpile surveillance and manufacturing and materials capabilities of the broader Stockpile Stewardship Management Program are also necessary, as are the maintenance of system engineering and infrastructure and the preservation of nuclear design and experimentation skills. 5
K. Johnson, J. Keller, C. Ekdahl, R. Krajcik, L. Salazar, E. Kelly, and R. Paulsen, Stockpile Surveillance: Past and Future, Sandia Report SAND95-2751-UC-700, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, January 1996. See also Sidney Drell and Bob Peurifoy, "Technical Issues of a Nuclear Test Ban," Annu. Rev. Nucl. Part. 44:285–327, 1994.
The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program: Maintaining Confidence in the Safety and Reliability of the Enduring U.S. Nuclear Weapon Stockpile, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Defense Programs, May 1995.
Nuclear Testing, JASON report JSR-95-320, The MITRE Corp, McLean, Virginia, Aug. 1995.
Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy National Laboratories , prepared by the Task Force on Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy National Laboratories, Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., February 1995.