Certification of the first warhead to be refurbished without nuclear testing for the nation’s nuclear deterrent was celebrated at the Laboratory Tuesday.
In a ceremony attended by Gen. John Gordon, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Adm. Richard Mies, commander-in-chief of the United States Strategic Command, the Laboratory team of scientists and engineers who worked on the W87 Life Extension Project was recognized.
Speaking as the “customer” for the work on the W87 warhead, deployed as the “Peacekeeper” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, Mies called it an “historic event” and “the first real test of stockpile stewardship” — the DOE/NNSA science-based program to ensure the safety and reliability of weapons in the stockpile without nuclear testing.
“You’ve overcome significant hurdles to reach this occasion,” he said. “This significantly improves the performance of this ICBM. It extends the life of the warhead well into this 21st century.”
Mies said the timely completion of the project will allow the W62 warhead to be “retired on time.”
“I’m very pleased with the progress that you and others — Sandia and Los Alamos — have made with the Stockpile Stewardship Program,” he added. “The program has matured. We’ve come to recognize that stockpile stewardship and underground testing are not an either-or proposition. Even if we were testing today, we would want stockpile stewardship.
“The value of stockpile stewardship in my mind is not just in the confidence it gives us in the weapons systems, but the confidence in the people — you ultimately — who make judgments about the weapons system performance,” Mies said. “Because in the end, it’s the people who will be the stewards of the stockpile.”
Gordon also lauded this “early success” of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. “Stockpile stewardship is really working,” he said, though “we still have a long way to go.”
Praising the progress in the development of experimental and computational tools, Gordon noted that “we’re confident we know how to solve the aging problem without testing. We’re on the right track.”
He also said Livermore “demonstrated real leadership” in overcoming such difficulties as finding parts, assembly techniques and experienced people in a “down-sized complex.”
“This was a tremendous effort in a difficult time frame,” Gordon said. “You’ve cleared the path and now are preparing the foundation for the next round.”
“I’m delighted to be here to help celebrate a really major accomplishment for the Laboratory, the weapons program and an accomplishment for stockpile stewardship,” he concluded.
Lab Director Bruce Tarter said the first certification of a warhead without testing was a “very significant achievement.
“This is the first instance when we have certified a warhead after a significant program without the use of nuclear testing,” Tarter said. “That’s major achievement for the formal program we began five or six years ago.
“In the course of doing that we’ve employed a number of the tools that have been developed. We’ve taken advantage of the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) computers to do calculations many of us never believed would be possible,” he said, noting computers are now useful in addressing engineering questions as well as design.
“One of the most significant things is that with a production complex that is not fully up, we were able to get it to do what it needed to do to get this entry into the stockpile,” Tarter said. “And that is the measure at a basic level of whether you can do the job.”
The project took “one heck of a lot of brain power. There were some very clever and creative things that needed to be done,” he said. “It exercised not just the doing capability, it exercised the creative and brain capabilities across the entire program.”
Michael Anastasio, AD for Defense & Nuclear Technologies, received commemorative plaques from both Gordon and Mies and in turn gave them mementos marking the occasion. Anastasio then recognized the leaders of the W87 program.
He said more than 300 people made “significant contributions” to the W87 Life Extension Program and that “teamwork was the key” to the program’s success.
The effort, which included partnering with Sandia, Los Alamos peer review and plants across the complex, has helped “re-energize the whole enterprise” to do something for the stockpile in the context of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Anastasio said.
Those recognized for leadership roles in the program included: Jack Robbins, now retired, Robert Clough, Glenn Mara and Hank O’Brien, program leader emeritus.
Receiving certificates of recognition were: secondary designers Don Smith, John Castor and Dave Dearborn; primary designers Leon Keller and Cynthia Nitta; Engineering Project Group members Tom Horrillo, Larry Sedlacek, Fil Diaz, Janice Everly, Tom Healy, Jim Kervin, Terry Lindman, Tommy Smith, Jess Squires, Sue Taylor and Peter Terrill; MSAD members Jeffrey Hagerty and Mark Hart; Engineering analysts Dan Badders, Bert Jorgenson and Frank Magness; the engineering design drafting team of Dave Neal and Gus Bernal; Jim LeMay of Chemistry and Materials Science; Bill Delameter of the Sandia Project Group and Wendy Baca of NNSA Albuquerque Operations.