Stewardship of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is the foremost responsibility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Partnering with other members of the weapons complex, the programs in Weapons and Complex Integration (WCI) underpin the success of the national Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP). [More about WCI's management team]
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 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 reliability of existing nuclear warheads without the use of nuclear testing. Confidence in the performance of weapons, without ongoing 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, 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Programs can extend system lifetimes, but can also introduce performance uncertainties and require maintenance of outdated technologies and materials.
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 computer facilities that are essential for program success.