Sunday, December 11, 2005

Another Editorial from the Albuquerque Journal

Publication:Jnl Final Edition 8/2005-today; Date:Dec 9, 2005; Section:Op-Ed / Letters to the Editor; Page Number:17

Machines That Keep U.S. Nukes Reliable Are Not ‘Toys’ BY MICHAEL R. ANASTASIO, THOMAS O. HUNTER AND ROBERT W. KUCKUCK National Laboratory Directors

A recent Albuquerque Journal editorial characterized the work being done at the national laboratories as involving “nonfunctioning toys” and “trinkets.” This view misrepresents both the importance and the complexity of the challenge facing the nation as it seeks to maintain the nuclear deterrent in the absence of nuclear testing.

For more than 10 years, our science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program has successfully met this daunting challenge. The Journal editorial diminishes this success and it mischaracterizes the commitment and effort of the dedicated men and women who support this vital mission.

We would like to set the record straight and offer a few important facts.

A decade ago, the United States chose to stop underground nuclear testing and, instead, certify the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons stockpile by other methods. This new approach, the nation’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, required the development of many largescale experimental facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Nevada Test Site. These facilities extended state-of-the-art capabilities well beyond what was available a decade ago.

With all great scientific challenges, there are inherent risks. Yet successive administrations, the Department of Energy and the Congress have directed the national laboratories to proceed with the development of a suite of scientific tools necessary to minimize these risks and maintain our nuclear deterrent without fullscale nuclear testing.

Policymakers funded an ambitious plan to rapidly advance the science and technology necessary to understand the aging effects on nuclear warheads, components and materials and simulate the extraordinarily complex behavior of a nuclear detonation using large computers.

In addition to the cuttingedge computer models and other analytical tools yet to be developed, the plan also required large-scale test facilities necessary to validate the computer models. These experimental machines are not “toys” as labeled by the Journal; they are essential to certify the safety and reliability of nuclear warheads without underground testing as well as assist in solving warhead aging problems that might arise.

These critical experimental systems and facilities include the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrotest (DAHRT) Facility at Los Alamos, the Z Machine at Sandia and the National Ignition Facility at Livermore. Many of these tools are in active use today while others are still under development. Yet all of these tools have provided excellent data and results that have been invaluable to the assurance of the safety and reliability of the nation’s stockpile.

For the last 10 years, the laboratory directors have successfully employed the expertise of the scientists and engineers of the national laboratories to assure the secretaries of energy and defense and the president of the United States of the safety, security and reliability of all the nation’s nuclear weapons. It is a solemn responsibility.

Continued success of this effort requires these facilities to provide the scientific and engineering capabilities to sustain confidence in this approach. Because they are first-of-a-kind facilities, there can be adverse impacts on cost and schedule, but we remain committed to fulfilling our responsibilities as cost-effectively as possible.

No task can be more important than providing confidence in our nuclear deterrent to our government. We are committed to that mission for all of America.

Michael R. Anastasio is director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Thomas O. Hunter is Sandia National Laboratories director; and Robert W. Kuckuck is Los Alamos National Laboratory director.

"No task can be more important than providing confidence in our nuclear deterrent to our government.", a quote from this piece.

What a bunch of self serving lies! The fact is that these Directors can choose to provide, or withhold, their assurances on the nuclear deterrent, with no one to evaluate their credibility. They, to a large degree, control their own budgets, and evaluate their own performance. Two of the "successes" they mention, DARHT and NIF, are failures by any reasonable standard, but their claims deem them essential and providing unique capabilities in understanding nuclear weapons.

We will not get a useful assessment of this issue from these three men, whose budgets are central to their positions on matters nuclear. They have a profound "conflict of interest", in informing us. Read Bob Peurifoy, retired Sandia VP, to understand just how profound that conflict is. The labs are engaged in nuclear "blackmail" no more,no less. If they don't get the money, they don't provide the assurances.

Needed, but unlikely, is a far different approach. The nuclear weapons program needs to be "capped", and management should be rated on how well it manages the programs within the caps. Without bounding a problem, you can't manage it. Right now the nuclear weapons complex is an "unbounded" problem, an out of control monster.
There as been some speculation with regard to who LUCKY really is. I think that he is Chris Mechels.
By now there should be no doubt about it. It's Chris Mechels. I don't
even know why he continues to bother with the "lucky" handle. I can
think of some much more appropriate names to match a fellow of his ilk
and "lucky" is definitely not one of them.
Some people never learn the lesson that constantly running off at the mouth eventually detracts from the message. That is not to say the Lucky/Chris M hasn't at times made valid contributions.

It does mean that the constant repetition of a theme sooner, rather than later diminishes the listener's ability to appreciate what is (endlessly) being said.
I've seen the name CHris M. What's the deal there. He's pretty prolific in several editorial circles, with opinions about most everything.
"BFO", Chris Mechels was laid off by LANL many years ago. Ever since
then he's been attacking Los Alamos. He's compulsive about it to an
unhealthy extent. There are some "old timers" around LANL who still
remember working with him back in the late 80's/early 90's. They can
give you a measure of the man. From what I've heard, it's not good.
It has long been a problem with this blog that it does not focus on content or facts, but emotional rants. This does not reflect any credit on LANL or the blog. I commented on a real problem; the profound conflict of interest in the way our nuclear weapons establishment is evaluated, and not one response addressed the issue. This is too typical.

As to the identity of Lucky, I will be happy to share, if others do. But, I think this will just lead to more character assassination and even less substance. Doug's intent, which I respect, was to have a forum for discussion of LANL issues and constructive suggestions for addressing those issues.

Lastly, Chris Mechels (who I know) was not "laid off", he retired. Get your facts straight, for once.
Sorry, Chris. Never happen again. RETIRED, not FIRED. Got it.
In my opinion all that was ever needed to assure that we had functional weapons in the field was to freeze the design and establish a good maintenance program. But what did we get?

Over the last few decades the government could have saved itself trillions of dollars by doing so, but they chose to give it to many facilities, most of which will be deemed worthless a decade from now.

The one on my most wanted hit list is NIF, the biggest and most expensive playground ever built that in the end if not already is obsolete. Just stand by. Sooner or later someone in Washington is going to wake up and put and end to all this bull.
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