National Security, Weapons Science
National security depends on science and technology. The United States relies on Los Alamos National Laboratory for the best of both. No place on Earth pursues a broader array of world-class scientific endeavors.
The Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility at LANL is part of the DOE's stockpile stewardship program. It uses two large X-ray machines to record three-dimensional interior images of materials. In most experiments, materials (including plutonium) undergo hydrodynamic shock to simulate the implosion process in nuclear bombs and/or the effects of severe hydrodynamic stress. The tests are described as "full-scale mockups of the events that trigger the nuclear detonation." The powerful pulsed X-ray beams allow for an ultra-fast motion picture to be constructed showing the details of the process being studied in three dimensions. The tests are often compared with computer simulations to help improve the accuracy of the computer code. Such testing falls under the category of sub-critical testing.
National security and weapons science is at the core of ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and protecting against a radiological or nuclear attack on the United States. The research performed by laboratory scientists and engineers provides the base from which new, innovative solutions are developed for the nation’s nuclear security problems.
National security and weapons science at the laboratory spans essentially all the physical, life, and engineering sciences. Notable examples include:
- nuclear physics
- computer and information science
- earth and space sciences
- materials science
- energetic materials
- and many others
National security and weapons science supports a variety of deployed systems, both for the nuclear stockpile and for monitoring and understanding natural and man-made phenomena.
LANL is the design agency for the W76/W88 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile warheads, the W78 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile warhead, and the B61 gravity bomb. These four systems constitute 80 percent of the nation’s on-alert nuclear deterrent.
Examples of monitoring systems include ground- and space-based systems that LANL produces for detecting violations of nuclear-test treaties.