Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Infobox Laboratory
name = Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
motto = "Science in the national interest"

established = 1952 by the University of California
director = George H. Miller
city = Livermore, California
budget = US$1.6 billion
type = National security, nuclear science
staff = 6,800
campus = 3.2 km² (800 acres)
operating_agency = Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC
website = []

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California is a scientific research laboratory founded by the University of California in 1952. It is funded by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS), a partnership of the University of California, Bechtel Corporation, Babcock and Wilcox, the URS Corporation, and Battelle Memorial Institute. On October 1, 2007 LLNS assumed management of LLNL from the University of California, which had exclusively managed and operated the Laboratory since its inception 55 years before.


LLNL is self-described as "a premier research and development institution for science and technology applied to national security." [cite web | author= | title=Missions & Programs | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | date=13 February 2008 | accessdate=2008-03-19] Its principal responsibility is ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons through the application of advanced science, engineering and technology. The Laboratory also applies its special expertise and multidisciplinary capabilities to preventing the and use of weapons of mass destruction, bolstering homeland security and solving other nationally important problems, including energy and environmental security, basic science and economic competitiveness.

LLNL is home to many unique facilities and a number of the most powerful computer systems in the world, according to the TOP500 list, including Blue Gene/L, the world's fastest computer from 2004 until Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner supercomputer surpassed it in 2008. The Lab is a leader in technical innovation: since 1978, LLNL has received a total of 118 prestigious R&D 100 Awards, including five in 2007. [cite website | title=R&D 2007 Award Index of Winners | url= | publisher=R&D Technologies & Strategies for Research & Development | date=16 Aug 2008 | accessdate=2008-05-20] The awards are given annually by the editors of "R&D Magazine" to the most innovative ideas of the year.

The Laboratory is located on a one-square-mile (2.6-km2) site at the eastern edge of Livermore, California. It also operates a 7000-acre remote experimental test site, called Site 300, situated about 15 miles (24 km) southeast of the main Lab site. LLNL has an annual budget of about US$1.5 billion and a staff of roughly 7,000 employees.


LLNL was established in 1952 to spur innovation and provide competition to the nuclear weapon design laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, home of the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic weapons. Edward Teller and Ernest O. Lawrence, director of the University of California Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, are regarded as the co-founders of the Livermore Laboratory.

The new laboratory was sited was at a former Naval Air Base and training station in Livermore, California. The site was already home to several University of California Radiation Laboratory projects that were too large for its location in the hills above the Berkeley campus, including one of the first experiments in the magnetic approach to confined thermonuclear reactions (i.e., fusion).

E.O. Lawrence tapped 32-year-old Herbert York, a former graduate student of his, to run the Livermore Laboratory. Under York, the Lab had four main programs: Project Sherwood (the Magnetic Fusion Program), Project Whitney (the weapons design program), diagnostic weapon experiments (both for the Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories) and a basic physics program. York also saw to it that the new lab embraced the E.O. Lawrence “big science” approach, tackling challenging projects with physicists, chemists, engineers, and computational scientists working together in multidisciplinary teams.

Historically, the Berkeley and Livermore laboratories have had very close relationships on research projects, business operations and staff. The Livermore Lab was established initially as a branch of the Berkeley Laboratory. Both labs are named after E.O. Lawrence, and the Livermore Lab was not officially severed administratively from the Berkeley Lab until the early 1970s. To this day, in official planning documents and records, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is designated as Site 100, Lawrence Livermore National Lab as Site 200, and LLNL's remote test location as Site 300. [cite magazine | title="A Short History of the Laboratory at Livermore" | author="Science and Technology Review (September 1998)" | accessdate=2008-05-20]

Weapons projects

From its inception, Livermore focused on innovative weapon design concepts; as a result, its first three nuclear tests were unsuccessful. However, the Lab persevered and its subsequent designs proved increasingly successful. In 1957, the Livermore Lab was selected to develop the warhead for the Navy’s Polaris missile. This warhead required numerous innovations to fit a nuclear warhead into the relatively small confines of the missile nosecone. [cite web | author="Global Security" | title="Weapons of Mass Destruction: Miniaturization" | url="" | date=27 April 2005 | accessdate=2008-06-03]

During the decades of the Cold War, more than a score of Livermore-designed warheads entered the nation’s nuclear stockpile, ranging in size from the Lance surface-to-air tactical missile to the megaton-class Spartan antiballistic missile warhead. Over the years, LLNL designed the following warheads: W27 (Regulus cruise missile; 1955; joint with Los Alamos), W38 (Atlas/Titan ICBM; 1959), B41 (B52 bomb; 1957), W45 (Little John/Terrier missiles; 1956), W47 (Polaris SLBM; 1957), W48 (155-mm howitzer; 1957), W55 (submarine rocket; 1959), W56 (Minuteman ICBM; 1960), W58 (Polaris SLBM; 1960), W62 (Minuteman ICBM; 1964), W68 (Poseidon SLBM; 1966), W70 (Lance missile; 1969), W71 (Spartan missile; 1968), W79 (8-in. artillery gun; 1975), W82 (155-mm howitzer; 1978), B83 (modern strategic bomb; 1979), W87 (Peacekeeper/MX ICBM; 1982), and W89 (Tomahawk GLCM; 1978). The W87 and the B83 are the only LLNL designs still in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. [cite web | author=James N. Gibson | title=Complete List of All U.S. Nuclear Weapons | url= | work=The Nuclear Weapon Archive | date=14 October 2006 | accessdate=2008-03-19] [cite web | author= | title=U.S. Nuclear Weapon Enduring Stockpile | url= | work=The Nuclear Weapon Archive | date=31 August 2007 | accessdate=2008-03-19] [cite web | author= | title=Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Stewardship | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | date=13 February 2008 | accessdate=2008-03-19]

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the United States began a moratorium on nuclear testing and development of new nuclear weapon designs. To sustain existing warheads for the indefinite future, a science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) was defined that emphasized the development and application of greatly improved technical capabilities to assess the safety, security, and reliability of existing nuclear warheads without the use of nuclear testing. Confidence in the performance of weapons, without nuclear testing, is maintained through an ongoing process of stockpile surveillance, assessment and certification, and refurbishment or weapon replacement.

With no new designs of nuclear weapons, the warheads in the U.S. stockpile must continue to function far past their original expected lifetimes. As components and materials age, problems can arise. Stockpile Life Extension Programs can extend system lifetimes, but they also can introduce performance uncertainties and require maintenance of outdated technologies and materials. Because there is concern that it will become increasingly difficult to maintain high confidence in the current warheads for the long term, the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration initiated the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program. RRW designs could reduce uncertainties, ease maintenance demands, and enhance safety and security. In March 2007, the LLNL design was chosen for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. [cite news | author=Scott Lindlaw | title=Bush Administration Picks Lawrence Livermore Warhead Design | url= | work=The San Francisco Chronicle | date=02 March 2007 | accessdate=2008-03-19] Since that time, however, Congress has not allocated funding for any further development of the RRW.

Plutonium research

LLNL conducts research into the properties and behavior of plutonium to learn how plutonium performs as it ages and how it behaves under high pressure (e.g., with the impact of high explosives). Plutonium is a complex and perplexing element. For instance, it has seven temperature-dependent solid phases—more than any other element in the periodic table. Each phase possesses a different density and volume and has its own characteristics. Alloys of plutonium are even more complex; multiple phases can be present in a sample at any given time. Experiments are being conducted at LLNL and elsewhere to measure the structural, electrical and chemical properties of plutonium and its alloys and to determine how these materials change over time. Such measurements will enable scientists to better model and predict plutonium's long-term behavior in the aging stockpile. [cite web | author= | title=Plutonium Up Close…Way Close | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | accessdate=2008-05-20]

The Lab’s plutonium research is conducted in a specially designed, ultra-safe, and highly secure facility called the SuperBlock. Work with highly enriched uranium is also conducted here. In March 2008, the National Nuclear Security Administration presented its preferred alternative for the transformation of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. Under this plan, LLNL would be a center of excellence for nuclear design and engineering, a center of excellence for high explosive research and development, and a science magnet in high-energy-density (i.e., laser) physics. In addition, most of its special nuclear material would be removed and consolidated at a more central, yet-to-be-named site. [cite journal | author= | title=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Fact Sheet for NNSA Complex Transformation - Preferred Alternative | | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | accessdate=2008-05-20]

National Ignition Facility and photon science

*National Ignition Facility (NIF)coord|37.690555|-121.700555 is a laser-based inertial confinement fusion (ICF) research facility under construction at the Livermore Lab. NIF uses powerful lasers to heat and compress a small amount of hydrogen fuel to the point where nuclear fusion reactions take place. NIF is the largest and most energetic ICF device built to date, and the first that is expected to reach the long-sought goal of "ignition," when the fusion reactions become self-sustaining. [cite web | title=National Ignition Facility and Photon Science: The Power of Light | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | accessdate=2008-05-20]

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) Project and related programs -- the National Ignition Campaign, Photon Science and Applications, Inertial Fusion Energy and Science at the Extremes -- are pursuing three complementary missions:

*National security: To ensure the continuing reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, Lawrence Livermore and other national laboratories are developing sophisticated supercomputer simulations to determine the effects of aging on nuclear weapons components as part of the national Stockpile Stewardship Program. When NIF is completed, it will be able to provide data for these simulations by replicating the conditions that exist inside a thermonuclear weapon. In addition, the Photon Science and Applications program is developing innovative technologies for homeland security and national defense.

*Energy for the future: By demonstrating the ability to attain fusion ignition in the laboratory, NIF will lay the groundwork for future decisions about fusion's long-term potential as a safe, virtually unlimited energy source. Fusion, the same energy source that powers the stars, produces no greenhouse gases and is more environmentally benign than fossil-fuel- or nuclear-fission-based energy.

*Understanding the universe: NIF's role in the physics of materials under extreme pressures and temperatures, known as high-energy-density physics, is key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. Other NIF programs promise breakthroughs in the use of lasers in medicine, radioactive and hazardous waste treatment, particle physics, and x-ray and neutron science.

Global security program

The Lab’s work in global security aims to reduce and mitigate the dangers posed by the spread or use of weapons of mass destruction and by threats to energy and environmental security. Livermore has been working on global security and homeland security for decades, predating both the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. LLNL staff have been heavily involved in the cooperative nonproliferation programs with Russia to secure at-risk weapons materials and assist former weapons workers in developing peaceful applications and self-sustaining job opportunities for their expertise and technologies. In the mid-1990s, Lab scientists began efforts to devise improved biodetection capabilities, leading to miniaturized and autonomous instruments that can detect biothreat agents in a few minutes instead of the days to weeks previously required for DNA analysis.

Today, Livermore researchers address the full spectrum of threats – radiological/nuclear, chemical, biological, explosives, and cyber. They combine physical and life sciences, engineering, computations, and analysis to develop technologies that solve real-world problems. Activities are grouped into five programs:

*Nonproliferation. Preventing the spread of materials, technology and expertise related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and detecting WMD proliferation activities worldwide.
*Domestic security: Anticipating, innovating and delivering technological solutions to prevent and mitigate devastating high-leverage attacks on U.S. soil.
*Defense: Developing and demonstrating new concepts and capabilities to help the Department of Defense prevent and deter harm to the nation, its citizens and its military forces.
*Intelligence: Working at the intersection of science, technology and analysis to provide insight into the threats to national security posed by foreign entities.
*Energy and environmental security: Furnishing scientific understanding and technological expertise to devise energy and environmental solutions at global, regional and local scales.

Other programs

LLNL supports capabilities in a broad range of scientific and technical disciplines, applying current capabilities to existing programs and developing new science and technologies to meet future national needs.

*The Lab’s chemistry, materials, and life science research focuses on chemical engineering, nuclear chemistry, materials science, and biology and bio-nanotechnology.
*Physics thrust areas include condensed matter and high-pressure physics, optical science and high-energy-density physics, medical physics and biophysics, and nuclear particle and accelerator physics.
*In the area of energy and environmental science, Livermore’s emphasis is on carbon and climate, energy, water and the environment, and the national nuclear waste repository.
*LLNL engineering activities include micro- and nanotechnology, lasers and optics, biotechnology, precision engineering, nondestructive characterization, modeling and simulation, systems and decision science, and sensors, imaging and communications.
*The Lab is a world leader in computer science, with thrust areas in computing applications and research, integrated computing and communications systems, and cyber security.

Key accomplishments

Over its 55-year history, Lawrence Livermore has made many scientific and technological achievements, including [cite web | author= | title=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | accessdate=2008-05-20] :

*Critical contributions to the U.S. nuclear deterrence through the design of nuclear weapons to meet military requirements and, since the mid-1990s, through the Stockpile Stewardship Program, by which the safety and reliability of the enduring stockpile is ensured without underground nuclear testing.
*Design, construction, and operation of a series of ever larger, more powerful, and more capable laser systems, culminating in the 192-beam National Ignition Facility (NIF), scheduled for completion in 2009.
*Advances in accelerator and fusion technology, including magnetic fusion, free-electron lasers, accelerator mass spectrometry, and inertial confinement fusion.
*Breakthroughs in high-performance computing, including the development of novel concepts for massively parallel computing and the design and application of computers that can carry out hundreds of trillions of operations per second.
*Development of technologies and systems for detecting nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, and explosive threats to prevent and mitigate WMD proliferation and terrorism.
*Development of extreme-ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) for fabricating next-generation computer chips.
*First-ever detection of massive compact halo objects (MACHOs), a suspected but previously undetected component of dark matter.
*Advances in genomics, biotechnology, and biodetection, including major contributions to the complete sequencing of the human genome though the Joint Genome Institute and the development of rapid PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology that lies at the heart of today’s most advanced DNA detection instruments.
*Development and operation of the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), which provides real-time, multi-scale (global, regional, local, urban) modeling of hazardous materials released into the atmosphere.
*Development of highest resolution global climate models and contributions to the International Panel on Climate Change which, together with former vice president Al Gore, was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
*Co-discoverers of new superheavy elements 113, 114, 115, 116, and 118.
*Invention of new healthcare technologies, including a microelectrode array for construction of an artificial retina, a miniature glucose sensor for the treatment of diabetes, and a compact proton therapy system for radiation therapy.

Unique facilities

*Biosecurity and Nanoscience Laboratory. Researchers apply advances in nanoscience to develop novel technologies for the detection, identification, and characterization of harmful biological pathogens (viruses, spores, and bacteria) and chemical toxins.

*Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry: LLNL’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) develops and applies a wide range of isotopic and ion-beam analytical tools used in basic research and technology development, addressing a spectrum of scientific needs important to the Laboratory, the university community, and the nation. CAMS is the world’s most versatile and productive accelerator mass spectrometry facility, performing more than 25,000 AMS measurement operations per year.

*High Explosives Applications Center and Energetic Materials Center: At HEAF, teams of scientists, engineers, and technicians address nearly all aspects of high explosives: research, development and testing, material characterization, and performance and safety tests. HEAF activities support the Laboratory’s Energetic Materials Center, a national resource for research and development of explosives, pyrotechnics, and propellants.

*National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center: NARAC is a national support and resource center for planning, real-time assessment, emergency response, and detailed studies of incidents involving a wide variety of hazards, including nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, and natural atmospheric emissions.

*National Ignition Facility: This 192-beam, stadium-size laser system will be used to compress fusion targets to conditions required for thermonuclear burn. Experiments at NIF will study physical processes at conditions that exist only in the interior of stars and in exploding nuclear weapons (see National Ignition Facility and photon science, above).

*Superblock: This unique facility houses modern equipment for research and engineering testing of nuclear materials and is the place where plutonium expertise is developed, nurtured, and applied. Research on highly enriched uranium also is performed here.

*Terascale Simulation Facility: LLNL’s Terascale Simulation Facility houses two of the world’s most powerful computers, ASC Purple and BlueGene/L. BlueGene/L has occupied the No. 1 position on the Top500 list since November 2004; the current system achieves a Linpack benchmark performance of 478.2 TFlop/s (teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second).

*Titan Laser. Titan is a combined nanosecond-long pulse and ultrashort-pulse (subpicosecond) laser, with hundreds of joules of energy in each beam. This petawatt-class laser is used for a range of high-energy-density physics experiments, including the science of fast ignition for inertial confinement fusion energy.

World-class computers

Throughout its history, LLNL has been a leader in computers and scientific computing. Even before the Livermore Lab opened its doors, E.O. Lawrence and Edward Teller recognized the importance of computing and the potential of computational simulation. Their purchase of one of the first UNIVAC computers, set the precedent for LLNL’s history of acquiring and exploiting the fastest and most capable supercomputers in the world. A succession of increasingly powerful and fast computers have been used at the Lab over the years:
* 1953 Remington-Rand UNIVAC 1 (Universal Automatic Computer)
* 1954 IBM 701
* 1956 IBM 704
* 1958 IBM 709
* 1960 IBM 7090
* 1960 Remington-Rand LARC (Livermore Advanced Research Computer)
* 1961 IBM 7030 (Stretch)
* 1963 IBM 7094
* 1963 CDC 1604
* 1963 CDC 3600
* 1964 CDC 6600
* 1969 CDC 7600
* 1974 CDC STAR 100
* 1978 Cray-1
* 1984 Cray X-MP
* 1985 Cray-2
* 1989 Cray Y-MP
* 1992 BBN Butterfly
* 1994 Meiko CS-2
* 1995 [Cray C9 [0]
* 1995 Cray T3D
* 1998 IBM ASCI Blue Pacific
* 2000 IBM ASCI White
* 2005 IBM Blue Gene/L
* 2004 Thunder
* 2005 ASC Purple
* 2006 Zeus
* 2006 Rhea
* 2006 Atlas
* 2007 Minos

The November 2007 release of the 30th TOP500 list of the 500 most powerful computer systems in the world, has LLNL’s BlueGene/L computer in first place for the seventh consecutive time. Five other LLNL computers are in the top 100.

On June 22, 2006, researchers at LLNL announced that they had devised a scientific software application that sustained 207.3 trillion operations per second. This was the equivalent of an online game capable of handling 300 million simultaneous players. The record performance was made at LLNL on BlueGene/L, the world's fastest supercomputer with 131,072 processors. The record was a milestone in the evolution of predictive science, a field in which researchers use supercomputers to answer questions about such subjects as: materials science simulations, global warming, and reactions to natural disasters.

LLNL has a long history of developing computing software and systems. Initially, there was no commercially available software, and computer manufacturers considered it the customer’s responsibility to develop their own. Users of the early computers had to write not only the codes to solve their technical problems, but also the routines to run the machines themselves. Today, LLNL computer scientists focus on creating the highly complex physics models, visualization codes, and other unique applications tailored to specific research requirements. A great deal of software also has been written by LLNL personnel to optimize the operation and management of the computer systems, including operating system extensions such as CHAOS (Linux Clustering) and resource management packages such as SLURM. [cite web | title=Linux at Livermore | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | accessdate=2007-02-28] The Peloton procurements in late 2006 (Atlas and other computers) were the first in which a commercial resource management package, Moab, was used to manage the clusters. [cite web | title=Peloton Capability Cluster | url= | publisher=Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | accessdate=2007-02-28 ]


LLNL's principal sponsor is the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) Office of Defense Programs, which supports its stockpile stewardship and advanced scientific computing programs. Funding to support LLNL's global security and homeland security work comes from the DOE/NNSA Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation as well as the Department of Homeland Security. LLNL also receives funding from DOE’s Office of Science, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, and Office of Nuclear Energy. In addition, LLNL conducts work-for-others research and development for various Defense Department sponsors, other federal agencies, including NASA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), National Institutes of Health, and Environmental Protection Agency, a number of California State agencies, and private industry.


The LLNL Director is appointed by the Board of Governors of Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) and reports to the board. The Laboratory Director also serves as the President of LLNS. Over the course of its 55 year history, ten eminent scientists have served as LLNL Director:

*1952-1958 Herbert York
*1958-1960 Edward Teller
*1960-1961 Harold Brown
*1961-1965 John S. Foster
*1965-1971 Michael M. May
*1971-1988 Roger E. Batzel
*1988-1994 John H. Nuckolls
*1994-2002 C. Bruce Tarter
*2002-2006 Michael R. Anastasio
*2006-"present" George H. Miller


The LLNL Director is supported by a senior executive team consisting of the Deputy Director, Principal Associate Directors, Director of Security, and Director of Environment, Safety, Health, and Quality. The organizations of the Laboratory Counsel, Audit and Oversight, Chief Financial Officer, and Contractor Assurance also report to the Laboratory Director.

The Lab is organized into five principal directorates:
* Science and technology
** Chemistry, materials, earth and life science
** Physical science
** Computation and simulations
** Engineering
* Global security
** Nonproliferation
** Domestic security
** Defense
** Intelligence
** Energy and environmental security
* Weapons and complex integration
** Primary nuclear design
** Secondary nuclear design
** Nuclear weapon engineering
** Advanced simulations and computation
* National Ignition Facility and photon science
** Inertial confinement fusion energy
** National Ignition Facility
** Target experimental systems
** Photon science and applications
* Operations and business
** Strategic human capital management
** Business
** Facilities and infrastructure
** Nuclear operations



* "Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War", by Hugh Gusterson, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1996 (ISBN 0-520-21373-4)
* "The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program: Maintaining Confidence in the Safety and Reliability of the Enduring U.S. Nuclear Weapon Stockpile" U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Defense Programs. May 1995.
* "Preparing for the 21st Century: 40 Years of Excellence". Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Report UCRL-AR-108618. 1992.

External links and sources

* [ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory] (official website)
* [ Lawrence Livermore National Security, a Limited Liability Corporation] (official website)
* [ Laboratory History] (official website)
* [ LLNL Industrial Partnerships and Commercialization (IPAC)] (official website)
* [ University of California Office of Laboratory Management] (official website)
* [ Society of Professionals, Scientists and Engineers] (Union representing UC Scientists and Engineers at LLNL)
* [,+California Annotated bibliography for Livermore from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues]

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