Since the beginning of the atomic age, Los Alamos National Laboratory has played a key role in ensuring that the United States maintains a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile. Today, achieving this goal requires collaboration and partnerships that stretch from coast to coast. This issue of National Security Science magazine focuses on the importance of the many pieces of the nuclear enterprise and the myriad ways these labs, plants, sites, and—most importantly—people work together. Each individual part of the complex is an essential component. Together, we support nuclear deterrence and maintain the stockpile through the application of unparalleled science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing.
The nuclear security enterprise began in 1942 with the establishment of the Manhattan Project, which was executed through government-owned, contractor-operated laboratories and production sites that have evolved throughout the decades. Facilities now include three national laboratories, three fabrication and materials production plants, an assembly and disassembly site, and a research and testing site. You can read about these interdependent facilities, the people who work there, and the work they do as you travel across the country on a nuclear enterprise road trip.
Understanding the roles and responsibilities of each part of the enterprise is a crucial part of our success. The people and processes that make up the complex are interdependent and connected on every level; yet each lab, site, and plant has a unique and crucial role to play. As you browse this issue, you will visit Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia national laboratories, the Kansas City National Security Campus, the Y-12 National Security Complex, the Savannah River Site, the Pantex Plant, and the Nevada National Security Site.
Responsibility for U.S. nuclear weapons resides in both the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE, and its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), oversee the research, development, testing, and acquisition programs that produce, maintain, and sustain the nation’s nuclear warheads and bombs. To achieve these objectives, the facilities that make up the nuclear security enterprise produce and recycle nuclear materials, design and fabricate nuclear and nonnuclear components, assemble and disassemble nuclear weapons, conduct scientific research and analysis to maintain confidence in the reliability of the deterrent, integrate components with nuclear weapons delivery vehicles, conduct support operations, and much more.
Across the enterprise, people move between labs and sites, learning, growing, and collaborating. This interchange between the various facilities is an essential part of understanding how we all work together to fulfill the overall mission. Here, you will read about 11 Los Alamos employees who’ve worked at other facilities within the enterprise.
I know I benefited from what I learned, starting as a doctoral student, working at other DOE labs and leveraging capabilities at multiple labs to develop new facilities before moving to Los Alamos.
I understand the need for all employees within the nuclear security enterprise to see the big picture. Common elements of science and engineering expertise exist across the labs, and certain production responsibilities have been added to some labs’ responsibilities, but each institution has a unique role in the enterprise. We rely on one other to achieve our mission. That’s why I hope this magazine will offer some insight and will encourage employees from across the enterprise to learn more. This issue of National Security Science will shed some light on how all the parts of the nuclear security enterprise work together to enhance global nuclear security and protect the world. ★
About the cover image (above): Holly Jencka, of the Visible Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, created this issue’s cover artwork using a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Blender. “The bomb depicted here needs each puzzle piece—each lab, plant, and site—to be complete,” she explains.