Los Alamos' mission is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.
- Los Alamos National Laboratory
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Robust solutions to most urgent and technically challenging national security issues
The Global Threats' program at Los Alamos enhances our nation's security by developing and applying the Laboratory's technical capabilities to an array of threats that have emerged since the end of the Cold War.
These threats include
- weakened control over nuclear materials and expertise from the former Soviet Union
- proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the more lethal aims of today's terrorists
- emergence of "rogue states" threatening U.S. interests, regional stability
Global Security Staff
Global Security draws on a staff with remarkable breadth and depth of scientific capability, professionals who have made their marks in nuclear engineering, astrophysics, statistics, computer modeling, risk assessment, detector development, and many more areas.
- Emerging threats
- Intelligence, defense, and counterterrorism
- Nuclear nonproliferation and security
- Threat identification and response
Recent Achievements & Research Breakthroughs
Improved Detection of Hazards
One of the gravest threats the United States and its allies face is the acquisition of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction by terrorists or rogue nations.
LANL provides technologies and expertise that systematically strengthen the capability to detect and interdict illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders. Deployment of radiation detection instrumentation at border crossings, rail crossings, airports, and post offices is part of this effort.
Aboard Mars Mission
Three LANL technologies are aboard the Mars Science Laboratory mission’s Curiosity rover.
Los Alamos radioisotope batteries are providing power and heat to Curiosity and are driving the vehicle’s 10 scientific instruments. One technology, known as ChemCam, is mounted on the rover’s mast and will use extremely powerful pulses of light to vaporize pinhead-sized areas of the martian surface to provide scientists with crucial information about the composition of Mars surface materials.
Another LANL technology, CheMin, is designed to use x-ray diffraction to determine the composition of samples that are collected and dropped into a funnel on the rover.
LANL provides continuous treaty verification support, including support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Reducing Proliferation Threats with IAEA
LANL’s expertise in nuclear materials technologies has played a significant role in mitigating proliferation in multiple areas. The expertise spans more than 40 years of direct support to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including the development of nearly every nuclear materials assay technology, training for every IAEA inspector, and more than 50 ongoing safeguards technology development projects.
Converting Weapons-Grade Plutonium for Use in Nuclear Power
LANL continues to employ Advanced Recovery and Integrated Extraction System (ARIES) technologies to convert weapons-grade plutonium to blended mixed oxides for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.
Defeating Threats to the Navy
LANL successfully tested a new high-current electron injector, a device that can be scaled up to produce the electrons needed to build a high-power-free-electron laser prototype for the U.S. Office of Naval Research. Operating at the speed of light, the free-electron laser will protect the U.S. Navy’s fleet of the future by defeating multiple incoming missiles in different maritime environments with a high-power beam of wavelength-tunable light.
Minimizing Global Radiological Hazards
The Air Force Technical Applications Center acknowledged a LANL technical team for its outstanding technical analysis of radiological samples and consequence management support following the earthquake- and tsunami-induced damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The results were critical in helping the United States and Japan determine options for minimizing the impact of radiological hazards on the global population and environment.