Congress’ investments in science-based stockpile stewardship have already begun to show results, Sandia President and Labs Director C. Paul Robinson told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee in Washington last week. He urged continued strong support.
In March 19 testimony before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Paul reiterated that the weapons labs are moving from "experience-based stockpile management to science-based stockpile management," a shift that "makes the scientific and advanced engineering capabilities of the laboratories more important than ever."
Paul thanked the committee for its strong past support. "This committee has been unwavering in its support of the nation’s nuclear weapons effort, and we hope that the Administration’s strong support for the FY99 budget will be reflected similarly by strong, bipartisan approval in the Congress."
Paul described how DOE’s Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) and Advanced Design and Production Technologies (ADaPT) initiative support Sandia’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, particularly the program to extend the life of the stockpile.
"Today I want to describe to you how your investment in science-based stockpile stewardship has already begun to produce significant results and to urge your strong support of the budgets which the Administration has requested," said Paul.
Sandia’s Z accelerator has "attained spectacular results" in the past year, Paul said (Lab News, Feb. 27). Z’s world-record X-ray energies and powers and high radiation temperatures "permit this machine to be immediately useful for weapons physics experiments."
ASCI and ADaPT investments paying off
Similarly, the first major milestone of the ASCI program was development of the world’s first computer capable of a trillion operations per second. That teraflop computer, developed by Sandia and Intel, established new records for computational speeds last year, Paul noted.
"That machine is now installed at Sandia, where it is routinely used in safety, aging, and nuclear performance studies for the real stockpile problems," he said.
DOE’s ADaPT program is designed to provide a modern design and production capability to repair, requalify, or rebuild warhead components of nuclear weapons. "Sandia designs, or specifies, nearly all of the nonnuclear components of nuclear warheads," Paul noted. For a variety of reasons, "it is impossible to rely on industry for all the components required for nuclear weapons" – particularly those unique to nuclear weapons.
"The technologies and processes developed and deployed by ADaPT will allow us to design, develop, produce, and certify the high-quality replacement parts and components needed for the Stockpile Life Extension Program in an efficient and responsible manner," Paul said. The initiative will also help the Labs exploit modern approaches to design and production, "which can also offer advantages to US industrial firms," he said.
"The ASCI and ADaPT initiatives, together with supporting research activities, have provided outstanding capabilities to perform this stockpile responsibility with greater confidence," Paul said.
Thanks Congress for supporting vision
"Our competencies for supporting the nuclear weapons requirements of the nation during a new era of reduced development activity are getting stronger," Paul said. "The evidence for this conclusion is visible in programmatic work today.
"I commend and thank this committee, and others in Congress, for supporting this vision. I am becoming more confident that your investment in stockpile stewardship will keep the DOE Defense Programs laboratories strong and able to meet their mission of maintaining high confidence in the nuclear stockpile’s safety, security, and reliability."