Nov. 27, 2002

Energy secretary praises Lab's service to nation

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham lauded the Laboratory’s work in national security as "vital to the nation" during an-all hands address to employees Tuesday afternoon.
"The missions that drive this Laboratory each day have never been more important," Abraham said. "The role you play here is absolutely vital."

In his opening remarks, the Energy secretary reflected on the Laboratory’s 50th anniversary and paid special tribute to its co-founder, Director Emeritus Edward Teller (see accompanying article) for helping to win the Cold War and taking on new national security challenges.

"It’s all well and good to honor the past, but it’s the second part — keeping America safe in the coming years — that I want to talk about," he said, emphasizing that "this president and this administration understand and support the work you do at this Lab and throughout the complex, and we take pride in that work and you…We understand the critical role Lawrence Livermore plays in national security and its relevance to DOE’s core mission.

"The name of our agency may be the Department of Energy, but the core mission of the department is national security," Abraham said. "What that means is that all of the department’s programs, initiatives, offices and facilities have to be judged by how they advance national security."

DOE advances national security not only through weapons and other national security programs, but also by "advancing the nation’s energy security…and Livermore is dedicated to projects that do just that."

Abraham said the administration’s support for national security and defense preparedness is borne out by the budgets it has requested, notably a $433 million increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), including a 23 percent increase over fiscal year 2002 to improve the aging infrastructure of DOE labs and re-establish the nation’s capability for producing plutonium pits.

Supporting science, engineering and management skills that "enhance deterrence and reduce threats to our nation" also provides benefits to society "that go far beyond the military dimension of national security," he said.

The Laboratory "has ably handled its responsibility" to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear stockpile for many years, Abraham said.

"In the last 10 years, however, you have had to do that without nuclear testing. This is one of the greatest technological challenges of our time," he said, adding, "you here at Livermore are playing a key role in helping us meet this challenge using the latest computing technologies and advanced modeling capabilities to determine our stockpile’s reliability."
Noting DOE’s announcement last week at the SuperComputing 2002 conference in Baltimore of the awarding of a contract to IBM to build the world’s two fastest supercomputers — "Purple" and "Blue Gene/L" — Abraham said these two computers "will have peak performance speeds three to 10 times the speed of today’s fastest computer.
"What’s important about these machines isn’t that they will set records for speed. That’s fine for the headlines and the news stories," he said. "What’s truly significant is how they will help us better carry out our national security obligations."
Abraham said certain nuclear weapons test simulations will be able to be calculated 390,000 times faster than on the 8-year-old Cray One supercomputer. "That’s the speed of progress. That’s the cutting edge."
However, even Purple and Blue Gene/L will one day be "obsolete curiosities" and replaced by even faster machines, he said, that when that happens, "we will be able to assess the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear deterrent with even more precision and accuracy. In a dangerous world, we must never slacken our efforts to improve these capabilities."

Abraham also described nonproliferation programs initiatives, notably establishing the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and efforts to "focus international attention on the threat posed by radiological dispersal devices or dirty bombs."

"Without Lawrence Livermore, America’s nonproliferation efforts would be far less effective," he said.

Speaking of legislation signed by President Bush Monday, creating the Department of Homeland Security, Abraham said, "over the next few months the specifics, detailing Livermore’s contribution to the new department, will be worked out. I expect that this Lab will provide the same high level of expertise and services to the Department of Homeland Security that you will continue to provide to DOE.

During his visit to the Laboratory, the Energy secretary received briefings on LLNL stockpile stewardship and nonproliferation program efforts and toured the National Ignition Facility. Abraham was accompanied by his wife, Jane Abraham, who received a special presentation on the Lab’s medical technologies program, hosted by Tamara Jernigan.