After months of delay, U.S. officials announced recently that a team led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory won the first design competition in roughly two decades for a new nuclear warhead. The news received a tepid greeting from U.S. lawmakers, who will need to fund the design if it is ever to be built.
The competition's origins date back to 2004 when Congress allocated $9 million to explore making existing nuclear warheads last longer without diminishing their explosive power. This Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program soon morphed into a more ambitious effort to produce new warheads that ostensibly would be safer, more reliable, and easier to maintain than the nine types populating the current stockpile of approximately 10,000 nuclear warheads. In early 2006, Livermore in California and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico submitted competing designs for the inaugural RRW warhead.
The Department of Energy's semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which runs the nuclear weapons complex, recently reported to Congress that existing warheads are safe and reliable. The agency, however, also says that small maintenance changes made to the explosive devices might someday corrupt them. Almost all the warheads are more than 20 years old, but recent studies found that the plutonium core of the warheads will last at least 85 years without degrading performance. (See ACT, January/February 2007.)
[Read the full article here.]
We know this isn't exactly news to LANL blog readers, but we are so impressed with Wade's style we couldn't resist posting it.
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