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He spent most of his early career (1967--85) at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he led the laboratory's defense programs. He is a longstanding member of the Strategic Advisory Group for the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Command. Robinson has served on DoD's Threat Reduction Advisory Committee since 1998. He was Chair of the Presidential Technical Advisory Group on Verification of Warhead Dismantlement and Special Nuclear Materials Controls. He previously served on the Scientific Advisory Group on Effects for the Defense Nuclear Agency, on Defense Science Board studies, and has advised other government agencies.
Dr. Robinson received the Outstanding Public Service Medal from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He currently serves on several community and educational boards, including the Great Southwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Explora Science Museum, and the Florida State University Research Foundation's Board of Trustees. He is also a trustee of the Kazakhstan Nonproliferation Institute. Robinson holds a B.S. in Physics from Christian Brothers College, a Ph.D. in Physics from Florida State University, and an honorary doctorate from Christian Brothers University.
REFERENCES 1 John S. Foster, Jr., Chairman, Expectations for the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program, FY 2001 Report to Congress of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety, and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile, March 15, 2002.
2 Foster, p. 14.
8 Nuclear Weapons Complex Reconfiguration Study; Complex 21; Defense Programs Phase I and II Maintenance Studies; Energy Federal Contractor Organization Group Study; Office of Secretary of Defense Program Analysis and Evaluation Review; Stockpile Stewardship Program Thirty-Day Review; DOE Inspector General's Defense Programs Production Facilities Assessment; FY 2000 Report to Congress, Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety, and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile (Foster Report).
STATEMENT OF JOHN C. BROWNE, DIRECTOR
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
JUNE 12, 2002
INTRODUCTION Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Military Procurement Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, for the opportunity to submit this report on the status of our science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In 1995 the U.S. Government initiated the stockpile stewardship program to ensure the safety, reliability and performance of the nuclear stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing. This program, which constitutes the core mission of our Laboratory, presents one of the most difficult technical challenges this nation has ever faced. In this testimony I will present the status of the program, accomplishments to date, and challenges for the future.
Let me begin by saying that I am more encouraged today by our ability to address and resolve stockpile issues than I have been in the past. Based on our progress and accomplishments to date, if we continue on the present path I believe we can reverse a perceived decline in confidence. We have had notable successes in the recent past-in manufacturing pits, in developing the experimental and simulation tools and methodologies that help us better understand weapons performance, and in developing a certification methodology. This progress gives me renewed hope in
our ability to meet present and future challenges to our stockpile. The attached appendix summarizes highlights of our recent accomplishments. The following are a few examples:
Pit Manufacturing and Certification: We have made great strides in recapturing this capability for the nation. We are on schedule to deliver a certifiable W88 pit in April 2003, and we have fabricated a total of 13 pits, 6 more than our planned baseline schedule of 7.
Life Extension Programs: Projects to extend the life of the W76 and B61-7 and -11 are proceeding on schedule. We have completed the W80 Baseline program and continue to support knowledge transfer for the life extension of this system to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).
Advanced Simulation and Computing: During this past year, we completed the first three-dimensional simulation of a full nuclear weapon system explosion using the LLNL 12 Teraops White computer that was directly relevant to the W76 Life Extension Program (LEP). We are installing the first phase of 10 Teraops of the 30 Teraops computer in our new Nicholas C. Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation that was completed ahead of schedule and $13M under its $106M budget.
Hydrodynamic Experiments: Completing the first axis of the Dual Axis-Radiographic Hydro-Test (DARHT) facility enabled us to perform hydrodynamic tests of nuclear weapon primary systems with outstanding spatial resolution. Since mid-FY01, we have performed seven major hydro-tests, four at DARHT, directly related to stockpile systems and in support of certification activities. The second axis of DARHT will be completed this calendar year and will be fully operational in 2004. Proton radiography is a new technology being developed at our LANSCE facility that is helping us make decisions about the stockpile and portending great promise for a future Advanced Hydrodynamic Facility (AHF). Certification Metholodgy: In the past year, Los Alamos and Livermore reached agreement on an approach to certification and quantifying margin and uncertainty (QMU) that will allow a better understanding of the confidence for any given nuclear weapon. We have begun to apply this methodology to this year's certification process.
The ability of the NNSA defense complex infrastructure to maintain the stockpile will depend, in part, on the viability of today's production capacity and capabilities to meet current and future needs, e.g., to find and address problems through enhanced surveillance, to extend weapon system lifetimes, and to produce weapons modifications required to meet new Department of Defense (DoD) requirements. The nuclear facilities and infrastructure at Los Alamos-buildings, roads, sewer systems, and the electrical power grid-are approaching fifty years old and are deteriorating at an alarming rate. The dedicated revitalization effort being planned by NNSĂ is crucial for the long-term viability of Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as for other facilities in the nuclear weapons complex.
But the effectiveness of the defense infrastructure to maintain the stockpile depends on more than our capacity for production. A production capability depends on our ability to understand the performance of weapons. We cannot, for example, produce and certify nuclear pits without a better, scientific understanding of weapons performance. This science-based approach to stockpile stewardship allows us to make critical decisions about the stockpile, including whether or not nuclear testing is required to resolve a technical issue. This also includes resolving Significant Finding Investigations (SFI's), performing life extensions, and assessing the health of the stockpile annually. I am concerned that we are cutting too deeply into an investment in the predictive science that will prevent us from making wrong or untimely decisions. This investment must not be deferred. Failure, even temporarily, to maintain appropriate levels of investment in experimental and diagnostic facilities and equipment risks creating vulnerabilities from which we might not be able to recover as quickly as might be necessary.
Additionally, we must find ways to assure the Congress of appropriate accountability and transparency in our programs without resorting to Congressional language that would force us to ask permission before beginning even preliminary investigation of advanced concepts. The flexibility to pursue advanced concepts in a manner consistent with established processes of scientific inquiry is important to assuring that we can address new requirements for the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and avoid technological surprise with new or unanticipated developments. Flexibility is equally important in allowing us to exercise the scientific and technical expertise of weapons designers, especially those who do not have nuclear test experience.
Finally, we support the steps that NNSA is taking to streamline operational oversight, encourage and support cooperation among its contractors, and to focus its ef
forts on strategic priorities and planning for the future. This should help us accomplish our mission and achieve programmatic success in a cost-effective and efficient manner, and in a way that allows us to meet near-term requirements as well as evolving, long-term challenges.
STOCKPILE STEWARDSHIP In 1995, the Department of Energy and the nuclear weapons complex implemented a science-based stockpile stewardship program to sustain the nuclear warheads in the enduring stockpile. The goal was to maintain the certification basis of these warheads without the need for nuclear testing. This was, and remains, an extremely ambitious goal. Ultimately, as I have said previously, in the absence of nuclear testing we cannot guarantee success of the stockpile stewardship program. Annual Assessment Process
Since 1995, there has been an annual process established to assess the safety, reliability and performance of the nuclear weapons stockpile. This process requires the Laboratory Director to formally certify the current health-safety, reliability, and performance of the warheads designed and built by the Laboratory in a letter to the Secretaries of Defense and Energy. The Director must also state whether nuclear testing is required to resolve any issues that might exist for a weapon. This is my most important responsibility as Laboratory Director. The process must be a well-structured one that assures integrity in the assessments and reviews.
There is specific language in section 3144 of the Defense Authorization Bill that would mandate “red teams” to perform peer reviews and require that “red team” reports be included as part of an annual certification package to the President and to Congress. Although I support "red teams”, I am concerned that this language will lead to new external committees to “resolve” highly technical issues that should be addressed at the level of the Laboratory Director. I am equally concerned that an expanded process would inevitably lead to accountability without authority for the Laboratory Director. Annual assessment must be a process in which the Laboratory Director-not a computer code, not a red team member, not a committee-makes the final technical judgment on certification of the weapons under his/her responsibility. This decision is clearly based on the input of all the experts that have knowledge and input into the certification process. The accountability inherent in this process is an essential element; expanding this accountability to committees or to a group of external experts would be a move in the wrong direction.
We have strengthened our assessment approach each year since beginning this process. We now have an excellent, although not completely adequate, set of tools that we have used in our experiments and simulations to yield data that have improved our comprehension of weapons performance. We have improved our methodology for certification. Both Los Alamos and Livermore support rigorous inter-laboratory peer review to ensure that issues with potential serious consequence for warhead performance and safety are properly identified, addressed and resolved. In the past year, the two laboratories reached agreement on a quantitative approach for certification that utilizes similar methodologies while maintaining independence for peer review purposes. Consistent with recommendations from the Foster Panel report, we have been phasing in “red teams” or “fresh-eye teams" at Los Alamos designed to look for any issues that might have been overlooked by the responsible warhead design/refurbishment team. A “red team” of LANL senior scientists, reporting directly to me, was established last year to review our annual assessment and will do so again this year. I use the team's report, and that of the responsible warhead team, in my annual assessment of the stockpile.
A major refurbishment of a weapon system, such as the B61-11, requires a certification process that is equivalent to a certification of a new weapon system. Therefore, the time scale is longer and involves a more elaborate process, potentially involving multiple peer reviews over time.
Also, as currently worded, legislative language in section 3144 would significantly change the thrust of the annual assessment process by expanding the scope of the Laboratory Directors' responsibilities to include, for example, assessments of warheads for which they are not responsible, of nuclear weapons production plant capabilities, and of the relative merits of alternative warheads. Requiring such an expansion of scope would require the Laboratory Directors to undertake assessments that are correctly the purview of other NNSA and DoD organizations and for which their respective Laboratories are not always adequately informed. I do not believe that this necessarily would serve the needs of the nation.
Finally, Section 3144 includes language that would require me to discuss the relative merits of other weapon types that could accomplish the mission of a weapon
type I am certifying. This would usurp the role and responsibilities of the Nuclear Weapons Council, created by Congress to have broad responsibilities with respect to oversight of the stockpile stewardship program, and would be inappropriate. This language also fails to recognize the joint nature of the stockpile certification process conducted by the DoD and the NNSA.
Pit Manufacturing and Certification
One of our highest priorities at Los Alamos National Laboratory is to re-establish the nation's capability to manufacture plutonium pits, the heart of nuclear weapons. Re-establishing this capability is an extremely complicated technical process that involves a combination of proven technologies that were used at Rocky Flats and new technologies needed to replace technologies no longer available. The W88 pit has been selected as the crucial prototype for restoring the nation's nuclear pit manufacturing capability. Producing a pit for a nuclear weapon involves two distinct but intertwined activities: manufacturing and certification. Significant progress in this program has been made in this last year. We are well along in establishing a limited manufacturing capacity for pits.
To date, Los Alamos has completed thirteen pits, well exceeding its planned target of seven. Of those thirteen, eight pits have been used to qualify manufacturing processes to meet the Design Agency specifications. We are on schedule to deliver a certifiable W88 pit, defined as one that meets all manufacturing requirements and specifications, by April 2003. We also are beginning to develop advanced manufacturing technologies in order to establish our capability to remanufacture stockpile pit designs other than the W88.
Certification of the pit is an extremely challenging process that requires both highly specialized equipment and expertise. Los Alamos has identified a series of laboratory and sub-critical experiments that are designed to test and validate our computer simulations that will be needed to ensure that the pit will perform as designed. Based on improved planning and better certification methodology we have been able to accelerate our schedule for certifying these pits for stockpile deployment use from the previously scheduled date of 2009 to 2007. LLNL is engaged in our plan to peer review the certification of the W88 pit.
Directed Stockpile Work
This work encompasses a broad range of activities that support the maintenance, safety, reliability, and performance of the nuclear weapons in the stockpile without the benefit of underground testing.
Life Extension Programs (LEPs): The life extension of the Navy's W76 system is proceeding on schedule toward a first production unit in 2007 with an estimated initial operational capability of April 2008. Evaluation of the condition and life expectancy of the materials in the nuclear explosive package is being addressed. The warhead refurbishment will extend the lifetime of this system for thirty years. We also have finalized plans with NNSA, Pantex, and Y-12 to begin refurbishing canned secondary subassemblies of the B61 Mod 7 and 11 in 2006. External peer reviews are being conducted, and final decisions to remake or reuse certain components are being made.
In support of the W80 Life Extension Program being conducted by LLNL, we are developing the Acorn gas transfer system with Sandia National Laboratories-California. We also have completed the W80 Baseline program and continue to support knowledge transfer to Livermore for their use in the life extension of this system. Surveillance/Significant Finding Investigations (SFI's): In the course of our surveillance activities, when any condition not in accordance with the original design is noted in a warhead, an SFI is initiated to manage the investigation, assessment, resolution and reporting of that condition. These conditions result from production defects, deviations from design intent and aging of the warhead. In every instance, the Laboratory determines if there is any impact to warhead safety, reliability, or performance, using the available suite of diagnostic, computational, and assessment tools. Safety-related SFI's always receive the highest priority. Once an SFI priority has been determined, those deemed to have the most critical impact are assigned high priority and an investigation is initiated immediately to determine the cause of the condition and to conduct the necessary research, testing and analyses. Depending on their potential impact to reliability and performance, work on the remaining SFI's is prioritized with other, ongoing stockpile activities. The opening of an SFI is not intended to signify the seriousness of the impact on the safety, reliability or performance of the warhead.
There are some SFI's that have been open for more than one year, either because they involve complex, highly technical issues that require additional time, or because of the technical challenge of resolving these issues with our current tools and
methodologies. The Laboratory is working vigorously, with the tools and methodologies that we currently have available, to resolve problems identified in our remaining open SFI's. Support for the ongoing development of these tools and capabilities is vital to ensuring that SFI's are resolved in a timely manner, and that decisions about stockpile maintenance activities are both informed and effective.
The annual assessment process requires me to examine all open SFI's to ensure that there are no issues that would lead me to recommend resumption of nuclear testing, changes in the operating conditions for a weapon, or withdrawal of a system from the stockpile. As our diagnostic tools improve, we expect to discover more issues that may result in SFI's. Also, the aging of our weapons and the dynamic nature of nuclear materials will cause changes that we will want to note and that are also likely to result in SFI's. However, this does not imply that I am losing confidence in the stockpile. If we could not resolve an SFI without some action by the NNSA or the DoD, I certainly would inform them of that situation.
As part of an enhanced surveillance program, Los Alamos is developing several promising technologies and techniques that have the potential for providing advanced warning of stockpile issues resulting from manufacturing or aging defects prior to their occurring in the field. Also, Los Alamos has been and is working with rest of the DOE Weapons Complex to develop an integrated surveillance program, one that contains increased technical rigor and consistency to support assessments regarding the safety, reliability, and/or performance of our aging stockpile. This more formalized approach will also include a way of communicating the seriousness of the potential impact of SFI's while they are still under investigation. Predictive Science
Since the cessation of U.S. nuclear testing in 1992, we have used a science-based stewardship approach to provide new assessment and predictive tools required for continued confidence in the safety, reliability and performance of the nation's stockpile. Today, the requirements for such confidence, the ability to provide a more agile capability, and the knowledge to avoid technological surprise remain as national priorities. Our success hinges on the timely development of a predictive capability we can rely on, scientifically, for future certification without further nuclear testing.
We must be able to evaluate, at any given time, how any issue uncovered in the stockpile, or any change that we might consider, will affect system safety, reliability and performance. If we do not have reliable models, codes, and data to develop an understanding of the issue through validated simulations, we will potentially make decisions that are costly and that may not, in fact, achieve the desired result of maintaining or improving performance. I am increasingly concerned that we are cutting too deeply in the predictive science part of the program. This will jeopardize our ability to quantify performance and, hence, decrease confidence in our assessments.
Notwithstanding my concerns about sustaining our investment, we have made great strides in building predictive capability. For example, we now have computer hardware and new codes that offer astonishingly high-resolution simulations of our systems from initiation to nuclear yield and we are using these to tackle and resolve real stockpile issues. During this past year, we completed the first three-dimensional simulation of a full W76 nuclear weapon system explosion using the LLNL 12 Teraops White computer. This calculation represents the first time that we have been able to compute a fully coupled primary and secondary explosion to analyze weapon performance. It represents a breakthrough for the program and unprecedented detail for designers and analysts. However, as powerful as these codes are, they are not yet fully validated in that we recognize the need to embed better theory and models in key areas where we know that our predictive capability is as yet inadequate.
We are installing the first phase of 10 Teraops of a 30 Teraops computer, called the “Q” computer, which was purchased as part of the Advanced Simulation Computing Program, an essential element of the nuclear weapons program. We are installing the full capability in phases in order to facilitate performance testing to connectivity requirements. The Q computer will provide the next increment of computing power required to run the new computational tools to support the Stockpile Stewardship Program mission. Baseline simulations of the weapon systems for which Los Alamos has responsibility will transition to the new ASC codes in the next few years. As this occurs, the demands on our simulation environment will be very severe as we support the heavy load of Direct Stockpile work currently scheduled for the next decade.
Hydrodynamic tests are another tool we use to enhance our predictive capability. These above ground tests provide integral data that are as close as we can get to a primary exploding without nuclear yield, and thus provide essential tests for our