Our primary responsibility throughout the decades: national security
The primary responsibility of the Laboratory is assuring the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent. Though the world is rapidly changing, this essential responsibility remains the core mission.
The people of Los Alamos continually work on advanced technologies to provide the United States with the best scientific and engineering solutions to many of the nation's most crucial challenges.
The Laboratory was established in 1943 as site Y of the Manhattan Project for a single purpose: to design and build an atomic bomb.
It took just 20 months. On July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb was detonated 200 miles south of Los Alamos at Trinity Site on the Alamogordo bombing range. Under the scientific leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the military direction of General Leslie R. Groves, scientists at the Laboratory had successfully weaponized the atom.
Hitler was defeated in Europe, but the Japanese Empire continued to wage an aggressive Pacific war. So President Harry S. Truman chose to employ atomic bombs in an effort to end WWII. Little Boy, a uranium gun-type weapon, was used against Hiroshima; Fat Man, an implosion plutonium bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki. On August 14, the war officially ended. An invasion of the Japanese home islands proved unnecessary, thus sparing thousands of American and Japanese lives.
The Los Alamos of today has a heightened focus on worker safety and security awareness, with the ever-present core values of intellectual freedom, scientific excellence, and national service. Outstanding science underpins the Laboratory's past and its future.
A rich variety of research programs directly and indirectly support the Laboratory's basic mission: maintaining the safety, security, and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent without the need to return to underground testing.
With a national security focus, the Laboratory also works on nuclear nonproliferation and border security, energy and infrastructure security, and countermeasures to nuclear and biological terrorist threats. As a foundation, the Laboratory conducts fundamental science in
- high-energy and applied physics and theory
- high-performance computing
- dynamic and energetic materials science
- quantum information
- advanced materials
- theoretical and computational biology
- earth and environmental science
- alternative energy systems
- engineering sciences and application tomorrow
The future is filled with promise. All Laboratory programs are built on our scientific infrastructure, with a focus on attracting and retaining top scientific talent and providing them the tools to succeed.
DARHT, a unique radiography facility, allows scientists to perform nonnuclear experiments designed to measure the many complex, dynamic aspects of a nuclear weapon during initiation.
Cielo and Roadrunner rank among the world’s fastest and most energy efficient supercomputers. Both are approved for classified computing operations, directly supporting the Laboratory’s weapons program.
MaRIE is a signature experimental facility intended to conduct research of matter-radiation interactions in extremes and translate that into real program solutions.
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility is key to supporting the nation’s need to recapture plutonium manufacturing capabilities.