Clifford W. Olsen

Clifford W. Olsen

Clifford W. Olsen of Pleasanton and San Ramon passed away Saturday, Nov. 4. He was 81.

Born in Placerville, California on Jan.15, 1936, he was the youngest son of Christian William Olsen and Elsie Mae (Bishop) Olsen. Olsen graduated high school from Grant Union High School in Sacramento in 1953. He attended junior college at Grant Technical College in Sacramento (now American River College) and received an associate’s degree in 1955 and was awarded life membership in Alpha Gamma Sigma (California Jr. College Honor Society) and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of California, Davis in 1957. Olsen went on to earn his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at UC Davis in the fall of 1962. While working on his doctoral degree, he met his wife, Margaret, and they were married in Sacramento in 1962.

From 1957 to 1962, Olsen held positions as a chemical laboratory technician and a teaching assistant/research assistant at UC Davis. In July 1962, he began his career at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, Livermore (today Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) as a physicist in the Neutronics Division. In October 1964, he became a physicist in the Test Division (L Division) where he worked as a project physicist/diagnostics physicist designing, supervising and executing experiments related to underground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site (today the National Nuclear Security Site). Beginning in late 1965, Olsen became primarily involved with the containment of underground tests at the NTS, which involved the design, supervision and interpretation of diagnostics related to containment.

From late 1973 to November 1993, as a physicist in the Containment Program, he held a number of positions including associate program leader (June 1981 to September 1982), deputy program leader (September 1982 to August 1984) and program leader from August 1984 to June 1985. From June 1985 to November 1993, he was the task leader for Containment Evaluation. He did site selection for LLNL nuclear tests from 1981 until his retirement in November 1993 and supervised all event containment presentations to the USDOE Nevada Operations Office during that period.

Following his retirement, Olsen held a number of positions as a Laboratory associate at LLNL and consultant to the Department of Energy, Holmes & Narver and most recently Navarro-Intera (now Navarro), providing expertise on nuclear test and containment related subjects. As part of his DOE consulting activities he was chosen to design and write a handbook on the containment of underground nuclear tests. During his career, he published articles in a number of scientific journals such as the Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Physics of Fluids and the Bulletin of the American Physical Society. In addition, he authored numerous reports internal to LLNL and organized the 2nd (1983) through the 7th (1993 symposiums on the Containment of Underground Nuclear Explosions and served as scientific editor for the proceedings of each symposium.

Outside of the Laboratory, Olsen was involved in numerous activities. He was a ham radio operator (he worked part time as a sales clerk at the Ham Radio Outlet in Oakland for several years), a detail-oriented bridge player, an avid collector, a prolific photographer and a consistent bass in the choirs at Holy Cross Lutheran Church (Livermore) and later at Saint Philip Lutheran Church (Dublin). He was a cooking enthusiast who enjoyed wine, classical music and traveling with his wife Margaret, especially the annual trips to Hawaii that they took for many years.

Olsen is preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Jean, and earlier this year, his older brother, Bill.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their daughters, Anne Marcotte and Charlotte Habecker; sister-in-law, Janice Olsen; sons-in-law, Steve Marcotte and Duane Habecker; six grandchildren, Rachel, Erin, Melissa, Grace, Donevan and Jadon; nephew and niece, Kelly and Kathleen Gobe, and many other important nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, step-grandchildren, grandchildren’s half-siblings and other loving friends and extended family.

For those who would like to do something in memory of Olsen, the family suggests a contribution to either The Nature Conservancy or The World Wildlife Fund.