Weapon Technologies and Engineering

Our multidisciplinary team approach to problem-solving leads to improved capabilities for addressing the next-generation national security challenges in weapon engineering.

Additive manufacturing is rapidly changing the design and production of critical components for nuclear weapons.

WCI’s Weapon Technologies and Engineering (WTE) Program supports activities in stockpile monitoring and weapon life-extension studies. We conduct component fabrication development projects to maintain effectiveness of the aging stockpile and to improve safety and security.

Fundamental to the success of the WTE Program are the contributions made by the personnel in the Defense Technologies Engineering Division (DTED) in LLNL's Engineering Directorate, who perform design studies of nuclear warheads to ensure we always maintain the capability to implement a weapon development process. We also develop sophisticated engineering software such as DYNA, NIKE, and PARADYN and perform leading-edge modeling and analysis of complex engineering problems in solid mechanics and heat transfer.

Among WTE's responsibilities are annually assessing the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear stockpile; adapting safety and security features to evolving life-extension requirements; and resolving remaining weapons physics grand challenges and delivering defensive tools to limit nuclear proliferation and to counter nuclear terrorism.

PARADYN software simulates mechanical interaction between independent bodies, as in this scenario of a hypervelocity impact and the resulting breakup.

As strategic stewards of the nation’s nuclear stockpile, our expertise encompasses reentry systems, weapon and detonator surveillance, explosives applications, hydrodynamic design and testing, defense technology analysis, and plutonium engineering. In addition, the WTE team supports LLNL’s High Explosives Applications Facility (HEAF).

Recent WTE innovations include:

  • Using selective laser melting, an additive manufacturing technique, to build heavy, high-density steel structures
  • Simulating dynamic deformations to predict structure breakdowns in weapon material tests
  • Leveraging mechanical and thermal approaches for reducing plutonium waste
  • Modeling multiphase blast explosives for munitions engineering