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January/February 2002

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
C. Bruce Tarter

Fifty Years of
Innovation
through Nuclear
Weapon Design

Simulating
Turbulence in
Magnetic Fusion
Plasmas

Present at the
Creation

Rapid Field Detection of
Biological Agents

Patents

Awards


C Bruce Tarter
Director,
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Fifty Years of Making History, Making a Difference


THE world was a dangerous place in 1952—Stalin was in power, the Cold War raged, U.S. troops were fighting in Korea, and the Soviet Union had exploded an atomic bomb years ahead of most expectations. National leaders recognized the need to accelerate the design and development of nuclear weapons, and to that end, a branch of the University of California Radiation Laboratory opened at the deactivated Naval Air Station in Livermore, California, on September 2, 1952. It was a modest beginning nearly 50 years ago. Now part of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national asset. It provides for the nation’s security through activities to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
The world has changed considerably in 50 years, and so has the Laboratory. The research and development capabilities presently at Livermore and necessary for our national security mission were unimaginable in 1952: computers that perform trillions of operations per second, the ability to design and engineer materials at the atomic level, the means of detecting one out of a quadrillion atoms, and a laser under construction that offers the promise of nuclear fusion in a laboratory setting. As a beneficiary, a contributor, and a driver, we have been fully engaged in the post–World War II technological revolution.
Lawrence Livermore’s many research and development successes for national security have been significant, as have our contributions to meeting enduring national needs in energy, environment, biology, and biotechnology. Our 50th anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on those achievements. Science & Technology Review will publish a series of articles throughout 2002, each highlighting a specific aspect of the Laboratory’s work. They will reflect on our accomplishments—“making history, making a difference”—and our course for the future. Some articles will focus on major programmatic successes, others will feature the scientific or technical advances made at Livermore that have furthered the programmatic achievements. All have a common theme: a Laboratory with an essential and compelling core mission and success in solving important and difficult problems.
The first article in this series deals, appropriately, with the Laboratory’s role in nuclear weapons design, which was a primary responsibility for Livermore from the very start (see the article entitled Fifty Years of Innovation through Nuclear Weapon Design). From the outset, Laboratory researchers worked in multidisciplinary teams, took a can-do attitude, and developed unique capabilities to address the complex issues and challenging science involved in designing nuclear weapons. Innovation was central to these efforts and continues to be a hallmark of the Laboratory’s efforts.
Future articles will report on Livermore contributions to the nation’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and to nonproliferation, arms control, and international security. Other articles will examine the Laboratory’s capabilities in computations, engineering, physics, lasers, chemistry, and materials science as well as programs in energy, environment, bioscience, and biotechnology.
One constant has endured over the past 50 years: the need for a national laboratory like Livermore. At the beginning of the 21st century, serious challenges to national security persist. Their resolution requires innovation and the best that science and technology can offer. Livermore’s defining combination of attitude, special capabilities, and multidisciplinary team science is the foundation of past successes and current ambitious programmatic goals. It gives rise to our ability to respond to emerging national needs and, in some instances, to anticipate them.
The next 50 years are bound to be as surprising as the last half century. All we can say for certain is that, when the Laboratory prepares to celebrate its centennial, it will be a different world yet again. Following the example set by Livermore’s founders and today’s exceptional staff, I am sure that the Laboratory will be engaged in the most pressing issues of the time, striving for innovations to keep the nation secure, healthy, and prosperous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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UCRL-52000-02-1/2 | March 8, 2002