Sunday, March 12, 2006

Former lab director supports nuke plan

Doug, very interesting comment from Sidney Drell at the end of this article,
since he's on LANS LLC Board of Governors running LANL.

Bush idea to redesign such weapons brings up concerns that they may be vulnerable to defects
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER

LIVERMORE — An influential Pentagon adviser on nuclear weapons threw his support last week behind Bush administration plans to redesign the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal but said the nation needs twice as many new bomb designs as insurance against any one of them failing.

Former Lawrence Livermore lab director and Pentagon research chief Johnny Foster, now co-chair of a Defense Science Board task force on U.S. nuclear capabilities, said that even though weapons scientists have found fixes for defects in U.S. nuclear arms, he fears existing and newly designed weapons could be vulnerable to undetected and unforeseen breakdowns.

"We have discovered warheads that would fail to operate properly," Foster said at Sandia National Laboratories-California. "Wehave also realized failure modes that were overlooked" as weaponeers carried bomb designs from conception to testing to production.


Full Story

I vote Sandia:

"I'm tired of it," said former Sandia National Laboratories weapons executive Bob Peurifoy. "The stockpile is healthy, it is reliable. It meets all the safety standards, it is ready to go, and it will kill you. It is showing little aging. We will someday reach a point where aging will be a concern for some component. When that happens, you replace it." He observed that the majority of U.S. nuclear explosives ride on a single delivery vehicle — Ohio class submarines and D5 missiles for the Navy, Minuteman IIIs for the land-based ICBMs and Tomahawks for the cruise missiles. "This is gigantic hoax on the taxpayer. It is stimulated by the self interest of NNSA and the (weapons) design labs based on the desire to extract ever more money from the taxpayer," he said. "You think our weapons don't work? Go stand under one. But don't take your wife and kids."

I also believe that this is why DOE has chosen to make LANL a pit facility. Some things just need replacing. I may be wrong but then who really knows and even if someone did they couldn't say.
I find it hard to believe that they would put a new weapon into the inventory without actually pulling the trigger on one out in Nevada. I doubt that our spineless politicians have the political will to do that. But, then again, I found it hard to believe that they would put a lunatic in charge of a nuclear weapons laboratory. At this point nothing would surprise me.
Sid Drell is nobody's fool. But it may take some regime change in DC before his wisdom is heeded and a modicum of sanity is restored--and our bloated military-industrial complex is brought under some semblance of control. At the end of Ian Hoffman's article:

Stanford physicist Sidney Drell, a frequent government adviser on nuclear weapons and intelligence, said the existing arsenal is healthy and said fielding newly design replacements poses a risk of restarting nuclear testing globally to ensure they work. "If you talk about designing new weapons, I don't think you can do that without testing," he said Friday. "I don't think that should be, and I'm going to do what I can to make sure it's not done."
As Sandia's Peurifoy points out, this is simply the nuclear labs making business for themselves; not a new idea as they have been doing such things for decades. Foster's idea of having two designs fielded for each warhead would feed both LANL and LLNL at the taxpayers expense. Points out that one of these Labs should be wrenched out of UC's hands, ending some of the incest.
DOE "chose" LANL for a pit facility because of politics. They were under immense pressure from LANL, and our Senators, to choose LANL, in spite of the fact that LANL's entire history shows their incompetence at production work. Remember, Sandia was created because of LASL's incompetence. ATT knows how to manufacture, LANL does not. The DOE "choice" for pit production was, of course, SRS; which could have done the job.
As for Drell; remember that he was the head of UC's President's Council on the National Labs from 1992-1999, thus he was a large factor in the mismanagement of LANL. He resigned only to assist in writing the "Rudman Report" and turned that report into a UC puff piece, thus postponing reforms at LANL. The Rudman report led to the creation of the NNSA, led by Domenici, another horribly bad idea. Sid Drell is a (large) part of the problem, not the solution.
The "solution" to LANL mismanagement was, of course, to remove them from the UC embrace. Sandia Lab knows very well the failings of LANL, and their strengths, and could have addressed them. LLNL managers share too many of the failings. DOE, whatever their wishes, is hostage to Domenici and the Labs.
The military industrial complex in action.
Only good news here is that Ian is still on the beat. A very good reporter on these issues, and a wonderful writer.
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