Lab focuses on science and safety
Editor’s note: This edition of Newsline marks the annual Year in
Review, a look back at the Lab’s highlights for 2000. Despite a year
of many challenges, the Lab provided myriad scientific and technological
accomplishments — from the mapping of the human genome to the delivery
of the ASCI White supercomputers, to the continuous effort to ensure the
safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile. What follows is an overview
of 2000, along with a month- by-month recap of scientific, technological
and operational achievements. "It is time to regroup and move forward
with a strong focus on our mission," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
during a December 1999 visit to the Laboratory.
In 2000, the Laboratory did just that, achieving major milestones in operations, science and technology. DOE verified the Lab’s Integrated Safety Management System in September, culminating an intensive three-year effort to enhance safety across all facilities and activities from clerical and administrative to the science lab workbench.
A series of rigorous and thorough reviews reaffirmed the importance of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) to DOE’s Stockpile Stewardship Program — the effort to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing. The project to build the world’s largest, most powerful laser made significant progress on its new "path forward."
NIF achieved milestones in rapid crystal growth and cleared major technical hurdles in the manufacture of laser glass as well as other technological breakthroughs. In his state-of-the-Lab address, Director Bruce Tarter called the technical work on NIF "absolutely outstanding."
The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), another cornerstone of stockpile stewardship, further pushed back the frontier of supercomputing. Last summer, the Lab received delivery of the ASCI White machines from IBM. ASCI White has demonstrated a computational capability of 12.3 teraflops (trillions of operations per second) — more than three times faster than the recorded speed of any other computer. The computer will be used to develop the complex 3-D models needed to simulate weapons performance.
Bioscience and national security.
In April, Richardson announced that researchers at the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek had decoded in draft form the genetic information on human chromosomes 5, 16 and 19. The chromosomes contain an estimated 10,000-15,000 genes, including those whose defects may lead to genetically linked diseases such as certain forms of kidney disease, prostate and colorectal cancer, leukemia, hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
This coincided with the announcement that the worldwide consortium had completed a first draft of the human genome. The editors of the journal Science named this work on deciphering the genetic code "the breakthrough of the year."
The Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) tapped Lab expertise in developing "signatures" — bits of genetic code unique to each disease-causing microbe or pathogen — as part of an effort to improve the ability of public health services across the nation to respond to a bioterrorist attack using biological weapons. The collaboration through DOE’s program to respond to the threat of bioterrorism was announced in June.
Lab scientists and engineers have also developed portable biodetectors for quickly and accurately identifying pathogens in the field by their signatures. Prototypes of these DNA analysis instruments were provided for testing last summer to such public health agencies as the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Bureau.
Peregrine takes flight
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the Lab-developed cancer treatment technology Peregrine for commercialization. NOMOS Corp. of Sewickley, Pa., will produce and market the system named for the patron saint of cancer patients. Peregrine is an advanced method for targeting tumors with radiation while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.
Calling Peregrine an excellent example of turning swords into plowshares, Richardson said Peregrine "could change the way cancer is treated in America."
Collaboration and education
Lab scientists and engineers continued to work in collaboration with their Russian counterparts to reduce the global nuclear danger through DOE’s Nuclear Cities Initiative. Researchers from Livermore helped set up and train operators for systems to help Russia monitor and secure nuclear materials. With the assistance of Lab scientists, the Russian nuclear weapons lab in the closed city of Sarov began a transition to commercial enterprise by eventually producing kidney dialysis equipment.
The Lab also continued to expand educational collaborations, signing a memorandum of understanding with the University of California’s new campus in Merced and Merced Community College. The agreement aims to create academic partnerships that will draw faculty and researchers to the fledgling campus and cultivate the scientists, engineers and technologists of the future.
The Laboratory mourned the death of Director Emeritus Roger Batzel, who led the Laboratory for 17 years through a period of growth and expansion. During Batzel’s tenure, the Lab grew from a budget of $128 million and 5,400 employees to a budget of $815 million and 8,000 employees.
Deputy Director Bob Kuckuck announced he would retire Jan. 31, 2001 after 38 years at the Laboratory. Kuckuck spearheaded the recent effort to implement Integrated Safety Management at the Lab and is an architect of the UC/DOE performance-based contract for UC’s management of the labs.
Tony Carrano, associate director for Biology and Biotechnology Research Programs, retired in June after 27 years at the Lab. Carrano is credited with growing BBRP into the vibrant program it is today.
Computations AD Dave Cooper, the Lab’s first chief information office, announced he would step down in March 2001. Earlier this year, Computerworld magazine named Cooper one of the "Premier 100 Information Technology Leaders for 2000."
There was also some organizational restructuring to reflect changes at the Lab. NIF became its own directorate and the other elements of the former Laser Directorate were merged into the newly created Physics and Advanced Technologies Directorate. The Earth and Environmental Sciences and Energy Directorates were joined to become Energy and Environment with earth and atmospheric sciences as the discipline base.
Even as it grappled with difficult transitions, the Lab looked to the future and the promise of the 21st century. The Long-Range Strategy Project, made up of 23 researchers identified as future Lab leaders, published its report on what the Laboratory might look like in the years 2015-20 — "2020 Foresight: Forging the Future of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory."
Noting that U.S. national security policies continue to evolve in the post-Cold War, the members of the project concluded that the nation will continue to rely on a nuclear deterrent, but "it is likely that other threats, both new and already emerging, will require innovative technical countermeasures."