ON December 8, 1953, in an address
to the United Nations General Assembly, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
called upon all world leaders to move toward peaceful rather than
destructive uses of nuclear technology. He said that nuclear technology “must
be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military
casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.” This historic
address, afterward referred to as the Atoms for Peace speech, sparked
a significant research and development effort to apply nuclear
technology for civilian use.
In 2003, Livermore’s Center for Global Security Research
(CGSR) commemorated the 50th anniversary of Eisenhower’s
speech by conducting a series of workshops to discuss the progress
made toward the goals he outlined. CGSR
deputy director Eileen Vergino notes that the influence of Eisenhower’s
initiative can be seen in many areas. “Technologies developed
in nuclear weapon programs have been applied to medical diagnostics
and treatments, detectors, research tools, and power generation.
Research initiatives following the spirit of Atoms for Peace also
brought us the technologies needed to build confidence in the arms-control
treaties that furthered détente with the Soviet Union.”
At the time of Eisenhower’s speech, the world was experiencing
dynamic and precarious changes. China had fallen to communism;
Stalin, who had consolidated the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe,
had died; and the United States was fighting the Korean War. In
1949, the Soviet Union had tested its first fission weapon and
then in August 1953, its first thermonuclear device.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the United Nations,
General Assembly. His speech, Atoms for Peace, called on all
world leaders to move toward peaceful uses of nuclear technology.
(Photograph courtesy of the United Nations/DPI Photo.)
Livermore had been founded only one year earlier as the nation’s second nuclear weapons laboratory. The Laboratory’s
primary mission was to contribute to U.S. efforts to deter Soviet
aggression by more rapidly advancing nuclear weapons science and
technology. The nation’s strategic goal was to develop a
nuclear arsenal capable of deterring any nuclear attack—which
to many people during that time seemed imminent. Livermore contributed
to this mission by developing the submarine-launched ballistic
missile warhead, which removed a first-strike capability as a strategic
military option. For the remainder of the Cold War, the U.S. and
its allies relied on the nuclear weapons developed at Lawrence
Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories, and deterrence
worked—no nuclear weapons were used during the Cold War.
addition to this success, Livermore researchers began to find civilian
uses for the weapon technologies they developed. Many
of these products and processes—unimagined in 1953—continue
to benefit society today.
Where Scientists and
Policy Makers Meet
Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) at Lawrence
Livermore brings together international experts in
science, technology, national security, and policy
to help them explore the ways in which science and
technology intersect with policy development and helps
both scientists and policy makers understand these
issues so they can work toward common goals.
foster in-depth discussion of common
issues and goals, CGSR sponsors workshops,
research fellowships, and independent
analyses, which have included participants
from the past and current U.S. Administrations,
Congress, and the Departments of Defense,
Energy, and State as well as their international
counterparts. For example, past workshops
have focused on security and the technology-driven
threats to the U.S. and its allies and
on deterrence in response to new threat
scenarios. “Think tanks abound,” says
Eileen Vergino, the center’s deputy
director, “but few of them have
Livermore’s concentration of experts
in nuclear weapons, laser, biotechnology,
energy, and other related fields.”
November 2003, CGSR held a two-day symposium
entitled, “Atoms for Peace after
50 Years: New Challenges and Opportunities.” This
symposium concluded a series of workshops
which scientists and policy makers discussed the progress
made toward goals Dwight D. Eisenhower outlined in
his Atoms for Peace speech, which he delivered to the
United Nations General Assembly in 1953. “In
our spring 2003 workshops, we asked participants to
examine both the benefits and risks of nuclear technology—whether
it is used for national security or civilian applications,” says
Vergino. Participants were also encouraged to discuss
the cross-cutting issues, such as nuclear waste and
disposition, environmental protection, regulations,
management of nuclear systems, and most importantly,
public confidence in the safety and reliability of
at the symposium included Paul Longsworth,
deputy administrator for the National
Nuclear Security Administration, and
Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the
late President Dwight D. Eisenhower and
chairperson of the Eisenhower Institute.
In her presentation, Eisenhower said, “The
genie is already out of the bottle,” and
she encouraged attendees to search for
synergetic uses of nuclear technology
that provide national security and civilian
benefits. CGSR’s final report is
available online at cgsr.llnl.gov.
Project Plowshare and Beyond
of the nation’s earliest and most ambitious efforts to
develop civilian applications of nuclear technology was Project
Plowshare, which was established by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
and Congress in 1957. Plowshare research included studies to determine
whether nuclear explosives could be safely and expediently used
to make harbors, canals, and dams; stimulate natural gas reservoirs;
or process underground oil shale into oil. Project Plowshare was
terminated in 1977, primarily because of the public’s concern
about the project’s environmental consequences. Nevertheless,
its legacy remains in many Livermore efforts—most notably
in the expertise developed in atmospheric and earth sciences.
example, in the 1970s and 1980s, Livermore pursued efforts to develop
an underground coal-gasification process that converted
coal beds into natural gas without mining. This method had two
benefits: it reached coal that, for economic reasons, could not
be accessed with surface mining techniques; and it produced a combustible
gas that was easy to clean. In another Plowshare offshoot, Laboratory
scientists investigated the use of nuclear explosives—and
later high explosives—to fracture oil shale and liberate
the oil it contained. From that research, they later developed
sophisticated surface-retorting techniques for converting the kerogen
in shale into oil and computer models to predict the natural production
of oil from kerogen, which have been adopted by major oil companies
these Plowshare projects, the Laboratory began to build its technology
base in geosciences. As a result, Livermore has
made significant contributions to ongoing studies of a proposed
high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
For more than 25 years, Laboratory scientists and engineers
have combined their expertise in nuclear materials, geologic science,
and computer modeling to help develop safe and secure methods for
storing the radioactive wastes produced by nuclear power plants.
Plowshare projects also expanded the Laboratory’s efforts
to understand nuclear fallout. Building on this expertise, Livermore
developed the Atmospheric Release Advisory Capability (ARAC) as
an emergency response service for the federal government. ARAC’s
original mission was to estimate the fate of radionuclides in the
event of actual or potential radioactive releases. In 1979, the
National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) at Livermore
opened ahead of schedule in response to the nuclear power plant
emergency at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Since then, NARAC
has provided emergency-response assistance by tracking airborne
releases from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, volcanic debris
from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, and smoke
plumes from oil-well fires in Kuwait and wildfires in California.
of smoke dispersion from a fire at a tire disposal pit in Tracy,
California, is superimposed on an aerial photograph taken a
few hours after the fire started.
Cooperating with the Soviets
the 1950s, a chief concern for world leaders was the growing tension
between the dominant political philosophies symbolized
by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower recognized
that the two nuclear powers had to work together to diffuse a potential
conflict. In his Atoms for Peace speech, he thus proposed modest
steps to “initiate a relationship with the Soviet Union which
will eventually bring about a free intermingling of the peoples
of the east and of the west—the one sure, human way of developing
the understanding required for confident and peaceful relations.”
Magnetic fusion energy was the first research area in which U.S.
and Soviet nuclear scientists cooperated. Livermore scientists
had already been working in this area even before Eisenhower’s
speech. Afterward, they began to collaborate with Soviet, British,
and other American scientists to study controlled fusion reactions
as a method for power generation. Results from that research were
presented at the 1958 Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva.
Cold War lasted another 30 years, but more areas of cooperation
opened up. The two superpowers negotiated new treaties that limited
nuclear testing and reduced their nuclear arsenals. To ensure that
the treaties could be enforced, government agencies called on Livermore
and Los Alamos scientists to provide technical support during the
Livermore scientists visited their counterparts in Moscow to
discuss research efforts for Project Plowshare.
Laboratory also began to research methods for monitoring nuclear
explosions. From those efforts, which began in the Vela Program,
scientists developed technologies to detect nuclear explosions
whether they were detonated at the Earth’s surface, underground,
in space, or at high altitude. Nuclear explosion monitoring remains
an important research activity at the Laboratory. Current efforts
entail developing databases, methodologies, algorithms, software,
and hardware to improve monitoring capabilities around the world.
Technical support of arms-control negotiations also continues to
be an integral part of Livermore’s overall mission. Today,
experts at the Laboratory provide technical assistance to the Department
of Energy (DOE) and its National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA) on treaty verification, and they analyze technical issues
associated with nuclear arms-control measures.
point in U.S.–Soviet relations came in 1988 with
the Joint Verification Experiment (JVE). For the JVE, each nation
agreed to allow the other to take verification measurements, including
hydrodynamic yield, during one nuclear experiment conducted at
each host country’s nuclear test site. A U.S.–Soviet
collaboration involving nuclear experiments was unprecedented and
showed how far the two nations had come in working together.
first JVE event, Kearsarge, was conducted on August 17, 1988, at
the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Soviet scientists who were escorted
to NTS not only observed U.S. scientists and engineers preparing
for an underground nuclear experiment but also recorded measurements
during the event. Then on September 14, the Shagan Event was conducted
at the Soviet Union’s Semipalatinsk Test Site. As with the
Kearsarge Event, U.S. scientists observed the operations and recorded
and Soviet flags fly side by side atop the experiment tower
at the Nevada Test Site during the first of two Joint Verification
Experiments in 1988.
measurement technique used for the JVE, called CORRTEX, was developed
at Los Alamos using concepts that originated at Livermore.
This technique measures the speed of the shock wave produced by
a nuclear explosion and then correlates that speed to the nuclear
yield produced in the explosion.
JVE was an extraordinary success,” says Bob Schock. Now
a CGSR senior fellow and the Atoms for Peace project director,
Schock was a U.S. participant in the JVE. “Professional relationships
were formed among Livermore and Russian scientists that remain
strong today. It marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.”
Treaties Call for Better Detectors
1953, President Eisenhower foresaw that “the knowledge
now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others,
possibly all others.” In response to this potential threat,
he recommended that the U.S. accelerate its efforts to develop
nuclear detection systems. Since then, the Laboratory has developed
an array of radiation detection systems to support various arms-control
treaties. One such treaty, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear
Forces Treaty, allowed the U.S. and the Soviet Union to measure
radiation from the other nation’s nuclear warheads.
develop more accurate diagnostic equipment for this treaty, Livermore
opened the Radiation Measurement Facility (RMF) in 1988.
The RMF has hosted several international experiments, including
a demonstration in 1997 of potential technologies to verify the
Trilateral Initiative. Formed in 1996, the Trilateral Initiative
is a collaboration of Russia, the U.S., and the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that fissile material removed from
dismantled warheads not be reused for weapons. (IAEA was established
in 1957 as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization
under the United Nations and is responsible for verifying that
nations comply with their nonproliferation agreements.)
radiation measurements, which are taken to verify that a country
complies with an arms-control treaty, can be intrusive and can
reveal aspects of a nuclear weapon’s design—details
that are among the most closely guarded secrets of nuclear weapons
states. To help protect this information, Livermore scientists
designed two systems that measure radiation without revealing warhead
designs. The first system, called the template-matching method,
compares the radiation signature from an inspected item with a
known standard for a weapon or component of the same type. The
second system, called the attribute measurement method, characterizes
an inspected item to determine whether the item possesses one or
more of the attributes of nuclear weapons and their components.
area of Livermore detector research is aimed at surmounting the
difficulties encountered when fissile materials are shielded,
as they are in nuclear warheads. Many detectors are designed to
operate in passive mode, collecting air samples and characterizing
background radiation to determine whether the telltale gamma rays
emitted by fissile materials are present. To detect shielded materials,
Livermore scientists are working on active detection techniques.
These techniques induce radiation, for example, by bombarding a
shielded container with neutrons or energetic photons, so samples
can be analyzed to determine whether they contain highly enriched
uranium (HEU). This technology also may be useful for homeland
security. It is being adapted for use at ports and customs inspections,
where investigators need improved tools to prevent the clandestine
smuggling of nuclear material.
Trains leaving and entering Astrakhan
on the Caspian Sea are monitored for nuclear materials
as they pass between radiation detectors.
Livermore-designed detectors are being used in a U.S.–Russian
project to ensure that HEU from dismantled nuclear warheads is
blended down to low-enriched uranium, which can be used to power
commercial nuclear reactors. Livermore is also exploring a concept
for detectors that can verify the origin of weapons-grade plutonium.
Challenges after the Cold War
the Cold War ended, a major international concern was the status
of nuclear materials and weapons from the former Soviet
Union. The U.S. has worked with Russia to ensure that weapons-grade
nuclear materials do not get into the wrong hands. Livermore-designed
detection systems are now located at some of the most important
nuclear institutes in Russia, such as the All-Russian Scientific
Research Institute of Technical Physics in Snezhinsk, a facility
similar to Lawrence Livermore. Another program is helping customs
officials in Russia to install nuclear detection equipment across
that nation’s 20,000 kilometers of borders. A U.S.–Russian
team has equipped Moscow’s Sheremetyvo International Airport
with radiation detection equipment, including pedestrian portals
to monitor departing passengers. Similar pedestrian- and vehicle-monitoring
portals have been set up at border sites.
the U.S. and Russia are committed to reducing their nuclear arsenals.
In the early 1990s, these efforts were given additional
impetus when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was about
to expire. The NPT called for signatory nations without nuclear
weapons to forgo acquiring them. In exchange, these nations would
have access to peaceful applications of nuclear technologies. Meanwhile,
nations with nuclear weapons agreed not to share their weapons
technology with others and to pursue negotiations in good faith
to end the nuclear arms race at the earliest possible date. In
negotiations to extend the NPT, the nonnuclear signatory nations
wanted the five nuclear signatories—the U.S., Russia, United
Kingdom, France, and China—to demonstrate more visible progress
toward nuclear disarmament. The five nations eventually agreed
to cease nuclear testing, and in 1995, the NPT was extended indefinitely.
the absence of nuclear testing, the nation needed another approach
to ensure the safety and reliability of its nuclear deterrent.
As a result, in 1996, DOE established the Stockpile Stewardship
Program, to provide the tools and technologies scientists needed
to better understand the physical interactions involved in nuclear
weapons and how component aging might affect weapon reliability.
The challenge of stockpile stewardship has led to recent advances
in many research areas at the Laboratory, including physics, chemistry,
materials science, and engineering.
example, DOE launched the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative
(ASCI) to develop the high-performance computers and advanced software
needed to simulate weapon performance more accurately. Now called
the Advanced Simulation and Computing Program, ASCI places the
NNSA laboratories at the forefront of scientific computing. Lawrence
Livermore is now home to ASCI White, a supercomputer that can process
12.3 trillion operations per second (teraops). The Laboratory
is also preparing for the delivery of ASCI Purple, which will be
capable of up to 100 teraops. Novel computer architectures with
still greater capabilities are being developed. (See S&TR,
June 2003, Riding
the Waves of Supercomputing Technology.) Terascale
computing offers the potential to revolutionize scientific discovery.
It can lead to unprecedented levels of understanding
in many areas of physics, including climate and weather modeling,
environmental studies, and the design of new materials.
cornerstone of the Stockpile Stewardship Program is the National
Ignition Facility (NIF). (See S&TR, September 2003,
Ignition Facility Comes to Life.) In December 2002,
NIF achieved “first
its first four laser beams were activated. Then in May 2003, the
project set a world record for laser performance when NIF produced
10.4 kilojoules of ultraviolet laser light. When this 192-beam
laser facility is fully operational, it will generate 1.8 megajoules
of ultraviolet light. With NIF’s unique capabilities, scientists
can explore the world of high-energy-density physics, delving into
the inner workings of nuclear weapons, astrophysical phenomena,
and materials under extreme conditions.
Detectors for Homeland Security
the increased number of terrorism incidents worldwide, the U.S.
government needs new tools for improving homeland security,
and Livermore scientists and engineers have responded to that call.
In April 2003, Livermore opened the Radiation Detection Center,
which coordinates more than a dozen projects for detecting clandestine
nuclear materials. The center’s research involves more than
200 Laboratory employees from eight directorates and Livermore’s
Homeland Security Organization.
physicist Ken Sale says, “We are adapting tools
originally used for weapons testing to solve homeland security
problems. Many of the constraints we have are the same, but the
environments are different.” For example, detection systems
for homeland security must address the possibility that weapons
of mass destruction or weapons materials could be brought into
the U.S. inside maritime cargo containers or driven across U.S.
detectors being developed range from a cell phone that doubles
as a radiation sensor to advanced gamma-ray spectrometers. One
Livermore system stores a radiation detector on buoys placed at
the entrance of marinas, ports, and waterways. (See S&TR, January/February
Buoys Help Protect Submarine Base.) Researchers have
also developed handheld, electromechanically cooled germanium detectors,
and CryoFree/25. (See S&TR, September 2003, The
Laboratory in the News and Portable
Radiation Detector Provides Laboratory-Scale Precision in the Field.). Both of these detectors
achieve precisions previously found only
in a laboratory and do not require heavy, bulky equipment to cool
recently, scientists unveiled the Adaptable Radiation Area Monitor
(ARAM) for homeland security (see the figure below).
ARAM is a portable system that can detect small amounts of radioactive
materials from a distance. When radioactive material is detected,
ARAM photographs the area, collects high-resolution spectral data
for analysis, and rapidly sends the information to a first responder.
Another system being developed uses a network of correlated radiation
detectors and cameras to locate and track radioactive or nuclear
material in vehicles moving at high speeds. Researchers are also
measuring the physical properties of nuclear materials so they
can improve the fidelity of the computer calculations used to model
Adaptable Radiation Area Monitor (ARAM), a portable radiation
monitoring system, can detect small amounts of radioactive
materials from a distance.
the primary use of these technologies will be to locate nuclear
materials and protect against acts of terrorism, they also
can be used to verify compliance with arms-control agreements
and to improve diagnostics for NIF, environmental monitoring,
and medical applications.
Advanced Medical Technologies
Livermore’s expertise in nuclear technology has helped scientists
understand the potential health risks of human exposure to chemicals
and radiation. Livermore began its biomedical research in 1963,
in an effort to measure an individual’s exposure to radiation.
This research area continued to grow and is now a Laboratory directorate,
Biology and Biotechnology Research Programs (BBRP). BBRP has made
significant advances in the study of human radiation biology and
biotechnology. BBRP research has aided organizations such as the
Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), which monitors the
health of people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who survived the atom
bombs dropped on those cities in August 1945. The RERF study—possibly
the largest study ever undertaken in human epidemiology—has
given the world a realistic assessment of radiation risk.
researchers have developed several biological dosimeters, or biodosimeters,
to detect and measure changes in human cells
from ionizing radiation. The glycophorin-A (GPA) human mutation
assay can measure subtle distinctions between normal and mutant
red blood cells. After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, the
GPA assay was used to screen cleanup workers for exposure. (See S&TR, September 1999, Researchers
Determine Chernobyl Liquidator's Exposure.) It is now used extensively to study genetic damage in
to potentially mutagenic agents.
biodosimeter, chromosome painting, is used to fluorescently label
small pieces of DNA. Laboratory scientists first developed
this process to identify reciprocal translocation—one of
the distinguishing effects of radiation damage to DNA. In reciprocal
translocation, the ends of two chromosomes break off and trade
places with each other. With chromosome painting, scientists see
and count translocations between two differently painted chromosomes
and thus determine a person’s likely prior exposure to ionizing
of BBRP’s research focuses on better understanding how
different doses of radiation affect human cells. One project is
studying the cellular effects from exposure to low doses of radiation,
such as those received from medical procedures or in certain occupational
areas. (See S&TR, July/August 2003, Cells
Respond Uniquely to Low-Dose Ionizing Radiation.) Another project recently demonstrated
that cells exposed to low-level
radiation will activate genes that specialize in repairing damaged
chromosomes, membranes, and proteins and thus counter cellular
stress. Livermore scientists also found an adaptive response in
human cells, whereby a cell that is pretreated with a tiny dose
of ionizing radiation will better withstand a later, much higher
dose. They also identified cellular changes that occur in the mammalian
brain after low-dose radiation exposure. The results from all of
these studies have useful applications, for example, in setting
exposure limits for employees at radioactive waste cleanup areas
and for people undergoing various medical procedures.
notable innovation in biotechnology research at Livermore comes
from adapting weapons technology to a civilian application. PEREGRINE,
a treatment-planning program for radiation beam therapy, couples
Livermore’s storehouse of radiation transport data with powerful
simulation tools and desktop computers and can be used to diagnose
cancers and treat tumors that have metastasized. (See S&TR,
May 1997, PEREGRINE:
Improving Radiation Treatment for Cancer;
April 2001, Leading
the Attack on Cancer.)
Another cancer-treatment system, called MINERVA, allows physicians
targeted molecular radionuclides and determine exactly where a
drug is distributed in the body. (See S&TR, July/August 2003,
Inside Attack on Cancer.)
being developed for underground subcritical tests at NTS may also
lead to a compact proton accelerator for radiotherapy.
The proton radiotherapy machines used in hospitals today generate
up to 250 megaelectronvolts to treat deep-seated tumors.
design breakthrough is a dielectric wall accelerator that is being
developed for the NTS x-ray source. This dielectric wall
can handle the high electric field stresses generated for proton
radiotherapy. Livermore researchers have already tested a millimeters-thick
dielectric wall sample, which withstood an electric field of 100 megavolts
per meter. They are now exploring this technology for use in a
proton accelerator only 3 meters long.
If successful, this technology would allow an oncologist to target
radiation more directly to a cancer tumor while avoiding healthy
is addressing the feasibility of a small proton therapy accelerator—a
device for radiation treatment that can more accurately target
cancer tumors without harming healthy tissue.
Maintaining the Legacy for Peace
years after President Eisenhower’s landmark speech,
the world is vastly different, but the challenge he identified
remains—managing the risks of nuclear technology while obtaining
its benefits. With its recent focus on Atoms for Peace, CGSR has
helped to examine the gap between the scientists who are developing
nuclear technologies and the policy makers who must safeguard them.
By working together, these two communities contribute to Eisenhower’s
legacy, which continues a Laboratory tradition—providing
innovative technologies to enhance national security and meet other
enduring national needs.
Key Words: Adaptable Radiation Area Monitor (ARAM), Advanced Simulation
and Computing (ASCI) Program, Atoms for Peace, biodosimetry,
Center for Global Security Research (CGSR), Joint Verification
Experiment (JVE), National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center
(NARAC), Project Plowshare, proton therapy, Radiation Detection
Center, Radiation Measurement Facility (RMF).
For further information contact Eileen Vergino
(925) 422-3907 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace speech is available
CGSR's report on the 2003 Future Roundtable is available at:
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