The Stockpile Stewardship Program is a science-based predictive capability. From button-to-boom, LANSCE uniquely addresses the SSP requirements.

LANSCE: Button-to-Boom

Supporting the Stockpile Stewardship Program

Since 1992, the United States has observed a moratorium on nuclear testing that has led to fundamental changes in the way the Weapons Program assesses whether the U.S. stockpile is safe, secure, and effective. When nuclear tests were conducted, the pedigree of a particular nuclear explosive package was evaluated experimentally with underground tests. The overall confidence in the continued performance of devices in the stockpile relied heavily on the expert judgment of designers with significant underground-test experience. In the absence of testing, a new assessment methodology was required, namely, science-based prediction of weapon performance; the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) was born.

The SSP is based on the scientific capability to quantitatively assess the performance of a nuclear explosive package. This includes the performance margin and associated uncertainties, that is, how close the system is to the point at which it might fail to perform as specified. This capability is firmly rooted in the scientific ability to obtain the experimental data needed to accurately model weapon performance across a broad range of physical conditions.

LANSCE facilities are used to meet this scientific grand challenge with research that explores many aspects of weapons science and behavior: from button-to-boom.

For example, LANSCE research has produced high-explosive data underpinning the certification that the B61 gravity bomb's nuclear warhead will meet specific performance requirements. LANSCE generated nuclear data critical to revising the baseline performance of the W88 primary. LANSCE also generated materials data validating the reuse of components in the W76 Lifetime Extension Program. These weapons systems were originally designed by LANL in concert with other national laboratories.

In the future, our science-based predictive capabilities must continue to improve to ensure the accuracy of our stockpile assessments as weapons age and their components are refurbished or replaced. These capabilities remain crucial to stockpile assessments. LANSCE is poised to meet these future challenges with enhancements to its capabilities and its continued engagement with the best of the scientific community.

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