Friday, March 02, 2007


Bad News About RRW: You Heard It Here First ...

[Looks like NNSA does it again. Will this be their last f*ckup? Stay tuned.]

First, from the KOB (Albuquerque) web site:

Bush administration picks Lawrence Livermore warhead design

Last Update: 03/02/2007 11:28:58 AM
By: Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The Bush administration has selected Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory�s design for a revamped nuclear warhead.

That news is according to two federal officials familiar with the decision.

The officials spoke Friday to The Associated press on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn�t been formally announced yet.

The decision comes a year after the administration ordered a competition between Lawrence Livermore near San Francisco and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Officials say the administration has decided that the design submitted by Lawrence Livermore, with engineering assistance from Sandia National Laboratories, can be built safely without underground testing.

Many of the warheads in the nation�s stockpile were designed and built 40 years ago.


Then this from

U.S. to develop new hydrogen bomb
Lawrence Livermore may take the lead in an effort by three national labs. Aging warheads would be replaced.

By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, March 2, 2007

The Energy Department will announce today a contract to develop the nation's first new hydrogen bomb in two decades, involving a collaboration between three national weapons laboratories, The Times has learned.

The new bomb will include design features from all three labs, though Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area appears to have taken the lead position in the project. The Los Alamos and Sandia labs in New Mexico will also be part of the project.

Teams of scientists in California and New Mexico have been working since last year to develop the new bomb, using the world's most powerful supercomputers.

The weapon is known as the reliable replacement warhead and is intended to replace aging warheads now deployed on missiles aboard Trident submarines.

The contract decision was made by the Nuclear Weapons Council, which consists of officials from the Defense Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Energy Department. Plans were underway Thursday to announce the award this afternoon.

The nuclear administration will issue the contract and run the program.

The cost of the development is secret, though outside experts said it would cost billions of dollars — perhaps tens of billions — to develop the bomb, build factories to restart high-volume weapons production and then assemble the weapons.

If Livermore does become the lead laboratory, confidence in the facility is likely to be bolstered, and political suggestions that its role in weapons development is unnecessary could be quelled.

A lead role by Los Alamos would help extract that facility from deep political problems growing out of security breaches.

The program is not expected to create a surge in employment at any of the labs.

The program marks the first time the military has fielded a nuclear weapon design without an underground test. The last time scientists set off a hydrogen bomb was in 1991 under the Nevada desert.

President Clinton ordered a testing moratorium, and it has been continued by President Bush.

Since the reason for building the new bomb is to maintain confidence in the nation's nuclear deterrent, experts say, the Nuclear Weapons Council will want the most conservative design, which gives Livermore the upper hand.

The design details are secret, but Livermore's version utilizes major components that had been tested — though not produced — for a Navy bomb about two decades ago.

By contrast, Los Alamos selected a design that involved an atomic trigger and a thermonuclear component that had been tested individually.

However, the two elements were never tested together, said Philip Coyle, who serves on scientific advisory committees and formerly was deputy director at Livermore.

The Los Alamos design is said to contain highly attractive features, including innovative mechanisms that would prevent terrorists from detonating the bomb should they gain access to it, experts said. Those use controls were cited by military officials as a key factor in developing the weapon.

Proponents of the effort say that the nation's existing nuclear stockpile is getting old and that doubts will eventually grow about weapons reliability. They say the new bomb will not have a greater nuclear yield and could not perform any new military missions beyond those of existing weapons.

So far, those arguments have attracted bipartisan support, including from Democrats who have long played a leading role in nuclear arms issues.

Critics say the existing stockpile is perfectly reliable and can be maintained for decades. The new bomb will undermine U.S. efforts to stop nuclear proliferation, they say. In addition, a recent study showed that plutonium components in existing weapons were aging much more slowly than expected.



[From AP ->]

New U.S. nuclear warhead design chosen
Updated 3/2/2007 2:18 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration selected a design Friday for a new generation of atomic warheads, taking a major step toward building the first new nuclear weapon since the end of the Cold War nearly two decades ago.

The military and the Energy Department selected a design developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California over a competing design by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The decision to move ahead with the warhead, which eventually would replace the existing arsenal of weapons, has been criticized as sending the wrong signal to the world at a time when the United States is assailing attempts at nuclear weapons development in North Korea and Iran and striving to contain them.

But military and Energy Department officials said the new U.S. warhead will not add to the nuclear arsenal, but replace existing warheads with ones that are safer and more reliable.

"This is not about starting a new arms race," said Thomas P. D'Agostino, acting head of the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nuclear weapons programs.

D'Agostino said that both the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore designs were contingent on not requiring nuclear testing. If tests were required in a design, "We were not going to go forward," he said.

D'Agostino said that engineers over the next year will focus on developing cost estimates and defining the scope of the program and a schedule for its development. After that, decisions will be made on actually building the warhead.

The warhead has been the focus of an intense competition between Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, the government's two premier nuclear weapons labs.

The two facilities submitted separate designs nearly a year ago. Lawrence Livermore's design is based on a warhead actually tested in an underground detonation in the 1980s. Los Alamos had a design based on a fresh approach that has not undergone testing.

One of the assurances given by defense officials to Congress is that the new warhead will not have to undergo actual testing. Once developed, it would be used in the Trident missiles on submarines and eventually would replace warheads on the Air Force's missile arsenal, officials said.

Administration officials, including the military, have argued that today's aging warheads are harder to maintain and as they age it will become more difficult to ensure their reliability.

The new design is advertised as being more robust with additional features to safeguard them against possible theft or misuse.

Of overriding concern to members of Congress has been that the warhead be developed without the need for underground tests. The administration has sought to assure Congress that the design would not require such testing.

The administration also argues that a phasing out of current warheads with the more modern design will allow additional reductions in the number of warheads that will be needed.

The decision Friday establishes a clear blueprint for designing the new warhead, officials said. A final go ahead is expected to be made by the president within two years, with the first warheads to be completed by 2012.

It has not been determined how much the program will cost. The administration asked Congress for $119 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 to push ahead with further design work.

Advocates for the warhead say it would give military commanders greater assurance of reliability and could speed the reduction of the deployed number of nuclear warheads from 6,000 to fewer than 2,000 by 2012.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

Los Alamos RRW team will evaporate and recondense in Albuquerque.
It wasn't just NNSA, Pat. You know that.

DOE, NNSA, UC, and Congress were all complicit in this decision.

The decision to award the RRW to LLNL is completely consistent with the collective decision-makers' plans to shut LANL down, except for possibly pit fabrication. Even pit fab is not a sure thing, as there has been plenty of consideration given to moving that operation to the DAF in Nevada.
At least money will still pour in and onto the ground at Los Alamos. Where a thousand guard toll booths will sprout.
I propose that this blog now has a new mission: documenting the piecewise D&D (Dismantlement and Decommissioning) of LANL.

-A (gratefully) Retired former LANL Staffer
If RRW and its LANL team evaporates, you can just kiss basic science at Los Alamos goodbye.

-Son of Oppy
This comment has been removed by the author.

By all accounts, LANL won the technical competition. That makes this decision a political one rather than a technical one, and while it is admirable that you are willing to take the blame for the decision, you shouldn't.

In my opinion, the RRW decision is in the came category as the decision which awarded the LANL contract to the Bechtel-led team, and which will no doubt be the decision that will lead to the Bechtel team winning the LLNL contract as well. Political, in other words.

There really isn't much that can be done about these decisions, except to vote with one's feet, as I did, or accept them, which I did not.


Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired
Apparently another political decision by DOE. Is anyone really surprised?

Doug is right. All you can do is vote with your feet.

I am very happy to already be gone. Good luck.
Notice the effectiveness of NNSA spinmeisters: Now in the updated AP version, the military loves the LLNL design, not just NNSA. These guys are slow, but effective in their own clumsy Mafia-style way.
Does anyone here really believe a phase 3 decision was purely on technical merits?


You have not learned from history.
Hey here is a good one. The comment from our good buddy Glen Mara is:

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which was the loser in the competition between the two schemes, chose to use a design that hadn't been tested. But they'll still develop parts for the weapon and peer review the project, says Los Alamos official Glen Mara.

At the all hands, when questioned what innovative technologies LANL would develop, Glen Mara, Charlie MacMillan, and Bret Knapp could not name one between them.

How much suuport do you think we really got from these guys? Maybe the cat just got their tongues? Oops this is a dog blog.

One last kick in the teeth…complements of the University of California and the California congressional delegation. If you sleep with a snake, like we've being doing at LANL since its founding 65-plus years ago, expect to get bitten. The NIF decision in the early 90s was the first really big venom injection we received from the UC contingent, now this one. It remains to be seen whether the victim will survive this go around. UC--the mother of all pit vipers. California got what it wanted, New Mexico got what it deserved—a kick in teeth for believing UC gave a damn.
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