With 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 without nuclear testing for the indefinite future, a science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) was defined that emphasized development and application of greatly improved technical capabilities to assess the safety, security, and effectiveness of existing nuclear warheads without the use of nuclear testing. Confidence in the performance of weapons is maintained through an ongoing process of stockpile surveillance, assessment and certification, and refurbishment or weapon replacement.
With no new designs of nuclear weapons, many nuclear 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programs can extend system lifetimes but can also introduce performance uncertainties and require maintenance of outdated technologies and materials.
Stewardship of the U.S. nuclear deterrent is the foremost responsibility of LLNL. We integrate science, technology, engineering, and facilities with capabilities at other laboratories within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) complex to meet NNSA’s objective of creating a modern stockpile that is smaller, safer, more secure, and more effective.
“Our working philosophy …called for always pushing at the technological extremes.”
—Herbert F. York, LLNL’s first director
WCI’s history of technologic and scientific advancements began when LLNL opened in 1952. Throughout the Cold War, Livermore scientists and engineers developed diagnostic instrumentation to support tests of thermonuclear devices, and we became the “go-to” Laboratory for nuclear weapons research.
A key attribute of our success is our attitude toward innovation. In the decades since, the scope of our work has changed—from weapons design and testing support to stockpile stewardship—but our commitment remains strong as ever.
Making a Difference. Our team is deeply committed to the success of LLNL’s national security mission and related core programs.
WCI is looking for talented, innovative people who take pride in their work and want to contribute to national security challenges. Our staff’s expertise includes a broad range of scientific disciplines—from weapons engineering and plasma physics, to materials sciences and high-performance computing.
We offer a variety of employment opportunities including career positions, postdoctoral research, and an intensive summer program for students and faculty.
Collaboration. Much of WCI's research is conducted in collaboration with other organizations within LLNL. Career opportunities also exist through LLNL discipline organizations in engineering, physical and life sciences, and computation.
We also encourage strategic collaborations with other DOE national laboratories, academic institutions, and industry to study scientifically challenging problems in support of national security and basic science. These collaborative projects often end up directly benefitting the U.S. economy, leading to the transfer of new science and technology to industry.
In addition, WCI makes technologies developed in its mission work available for global socio-economic benefit. WCI encourages the widest possible dissemination of research results in publications and presentations at national and international conferences (both unclassified and classified, as appropriate) and offers numerous opportunities for professional development.
Breakthrough science and engineering underpin LLNL's contributions to the SSP's stockpile surveillance, assessment, certification, and refurbishment programs. Among other things, the SSP requires robust nonnuclear experiments and enhanced simulations benchmarked against past nuclear test data that together must compensate for the loss of new nuclear testing. To this end, LLNL operates a number of unique, state-of-the-art experimental and computing facilities that are essential for program success:
Through these cutting edge tools, coupled with the Lab's multidisciplinary expertise, the nation can successfully transition to a reduced stockpile.