Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

The Bomb without the Boom

A new subcritical measurement tool to help scientists protect and preserve the nation’s nuclear-weapons stockpile
October 1, 2017
U1a facility at the Nevada National Security Site

Comprising nearly a mile and a half of underground tunnels and alcoves, the U1a facility at the Nevada National Security Site is a state-of-the-art laboratory dedicated to subcritical experiments and other physics experiments in support of science-based stockpile stewardship.CREDIT: Nevada National Security Site

This will help scientists study plutonium under the conditions found inside a nuclear explosion—without the nuclear explosion.

Science-based stockpile stewardship is how scientists at Los Alamos and other national labs ensure that nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, and reliable in the absence of nuclear testing. It has helped shape the Laboratory’s evolution since the cessation of full-scale testing, driving innovation in three key arenas—computers, codes, and experiments. With the tools of science-based stockpile stewardship, scientists can ask and answer questions vital to maintaining our country’s aging stockpile. And now a new type of tool—one that can make measurements that haven’t been made since the cessation of underground testing—is going to provide new insight into the conditions inside exploding nuclear weapons.