Aug 14, 2008
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory withdrew a permit seeking to set off more explosives in the open air at its Site 300 testing ground in the Altamont Hills between Livermore and Tracy.
The laboratory had sought to set off three tests using 350 pounds of explosives each, and was required to get permission from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Center. Current permits -- dating from 2006 -- allow tests of up to 100 pounds of explosives per day and up to 1,000 pounds per year.
Lab officials said that "research programs that would have required increased explosives limits have evolved" and that bigger test explosions aren't needed as a result. However, the lab may submit another permit application if it decides it needs to test larger amounts of explosive.
Since new managers -- led by the University of California and San Francisco's Bechtel Corp. -- took charge of the lab in October, federal funding for research has been reduced, and costs have gone up. The lab has cut as many as 900 jobs, held by both contract and permanent workers, since then. It didn't say whether changes to the explosives research were related to funding cuts.
George Miller is head of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which was set up in 1952 to improve atomic weapons technology. Its first noted breakthrough was the design of an atomic warhead that fit on a missile launched from a submarine. Later, the lab did work on so-called MIRV warheads, which packed several independently steered warheads onto the tip of a single missile.
In time, the lab added many non-weapon programs, like biomedicine, laser and fusion energy research.
As supercomputers improved, the lab used them more and more to simulate nuclear explosions, which had been banned by treaties.