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~Part 2: Second-Generation Designers~ Langdon Bennett, David Jablonski, Brian Lansrud-Lopez, and John Scott with Bob Webster Part 2 is compiled from interviews with the Lab’s “second-generation” designers and discussions at the Designers Roundtable, 2nd Los Alamos Primer lectures (July 2013). Their perspectives offer insights into the challenges they face as stewards of the aging U.S. nuclear stockpile in an era when they cannot test it, their resources are limited, and the number of important experiments they need to do is constrained. NSS: What’s it like being a second-generation weapons designer? John Scott: Sometimes we in the design community have debates about what makes a designer. What makes a designer today is different than what it was before the testing ban. Today, designers make predictions regarding the performance of the aging weapons in the nuclear stockpile, but they can’t test their predictions with an underground nuclear test. So some people say we’re not really designers. David Jablonski: There are some people who believe that the only “real” designers are the ones who designed a nuclear weapon that was tested with a full-scale test. By that definition, “real” designers are “the ones who dug big holes” [at the test site in Nevada]. So there are very few “real” designers left in the nuclear weapons complex. Remember, a new U.S. nuclear weapon hasn’t been manufactured since about 1991. And since the United States stopped conducting full-scale tests of its Langdon Bennett joined Los Alamos in 1996 as a specialist in high-explosives modeling. He currently is the primary lead for the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb life-extension program (LEP). David Jablonski joined the Laboratory in 2005 as a physicist. He first came to the Lab in 2002 on an Air Force assignment but then left the Air Force work at the Laboratory on the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Brian Lansrud-Lopez joined Los Alamos in 2005 as a nuclear engineer. In 2010 he joined the team working on the B61 LEP. His work includes leading hydrodynamic experiments and doing weapons physics research. John Scott joined Los Alamos in 2000 as a nuclear engineer. In 2006 he became a lead designer for the Reliable Replacement Warhead project. Scott’s current work is related to investigating the potential use of recycled plutonium pits in refurbished nuclear weapons. weapons in 1992, the first-generation weapon designers, the ones who took part in the testing, are getting scarce—they’re retired or getting ready to retire. In the early 1990s basically everyone in my division at the Lab had nuclear testing experi- ence. Since that time it’s been dropping. And that drop has accelerated a lot since I got here. When I came here, in 2002, I’m guessing there were 15 or 20 designers with test experience; today there are maybe 5 or less. As a result, particularly in the past 15 years, there’s been a focus on learning from the first generation while they’re still around. Today, we’re starting to hire what will become the third generation of designers—those who won’t have any access to designers with underground testing experience. So by and large, they’ll be trained by designers who aren’t designing [creating new designs] and who don’t have any nuclear testing experience. In lieu of testing nuclear weapons, second-generation designers judge the condition of the aging stockpile based on tests of weapon subsystems, computer simulations of both physics phenom- ena (shown here) and weapon behavior, and knowledge gained from past nuclear tests. (Photo: Los Alamos) National Security Science • February 2014 27