April 14, 1996
Executive Summary and Conclusions
- The nation does not need nuclear weapons laboratories as we know
them in order to maintain a reliable nuclear arsenal. Such a
deterrent can instead be maintained by a remanufacturing and curatorship
program, without most of what is now called the "stockpile stewardship"
program. That program is largely oriented toward sinecures at
the weapons laboratories and toward retaining (and in some respects,
enlarging) the capability to resume nuclear weapons development. The
planned program of above-ground testing facilities, and most of all
the entirely unjustified NIF project, can be canceled without danger
to U.S. nuclear weapons.
- Peer review between Los Alamos and Livermore is more about the
mutual protection of programs and funding than it is about objective,
mission-oriented, mutual critique. Lawrence Livermore's weapons
functions are essentially redundant and should be transferred to Los
Alamos. Livermore's civilian functions should be taken over
by DOE Energy Programs and administered by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
Los Alamos and Sandia should be downsized in place, emphasizing
their stockpile management roles.
- Other sites in the DOE weapons complex are also funded excessively
and should be trimmed, in some cases radically so, or closed. The
Nevada Test Site should be formally closed.
- The resulting savings -- on the order of $2 B/yr -- should be used
to a) fund substantial new initiatives to aid dismantlement and nuclear
security in Russia, parallel to but complementary to the Nunn-Lugar
program, and b) renew energy programs within the DOE, emphasizing
renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, industrial ecology,
and related initiatives.
- These new Russian initiatives should be part of a U.S. fresh arms
control and nonproliferation effort across a broad front, involving
immediate unilateral measures such as an announcement of further dismantlements,
a no first use policy, and other steps.
- Conversion of LLNL to civilian missions is an idealistic goal that
cannot and will not occur without sweeping change within DOE and the
nation. Yet conversion is composed of a suite of decisions,
all of which have independent merit regardless of their relative timing
or coordination. Those decisions can be found in greater detail
in the RECOMMENDATIONS
- The stability of employment at LLNL should not be a factor in national
laboratory policy. Downsizing LLNL could in fact produce net
jobs in the region. Programs of great utility to the nation,
however, like much of LLNL's EMATT program, should be shielded during
downsizing and the transition to new management. The final size
of LLNL should be determined by the aggregate size of individual civilian
projects and programs, established on a competitive basis.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is located
about 40 miles southeast of Oakland, California. It is one of three
nuclear weapons labs retained by the Department of Energy (DOE), the others
being Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratory
(SNL), both of which are in New Mexico. (1)
LLNL has been operated by the University of California since
it was founded in 1953.
Of the three labs, Livermore and Los Alamos both work on the actual nuclear
explosive, or "physics package," which contains about 5% of the overall
number of parts in a typical nuclear weapon. Sandia handles the
"weaponization" of that explosive, comprising the other 95% of parts in
the weapon as a whole.
LLNL is a large laboratory, with an annual budget of approximately $900
million (M) and about 7,200 full-time personnel, not including about two
thousand contract employees. While its defense mission commands
the lion's share (about two-thirds) of its resources, LLNL is a multiprogram
laboratory with diverse skills.
LLNL's core competencies, as the lab describes them [and with comments
in brackets like this], are:
- Multidisciplinary integration [this may simply mean that LLNL is
accustomed to having large projects]
- Nuclear science and technology
- computer simulation
- sensors and instrumentation
- biotechnology [in selected areas]
- process/manufacturing technology [in selected areas]
Does the Nation Need Nuclear Weapons Labs?
The logical place to begin our examination of the
future of LLNL is with the normative future of the DOE weapons laboratories
as a group. Historically, the DOE nuclear weapons design labs could
be said to have begun in 1943 with the construction of "Project Y" on
a remote location in New Mexico called Los Alamos. That lab was
tasked with the design and assembly of the first nuclear weapons. But
fully 97% of the work, and the expense, of the Manhattan Project were
elsewhere, as was the great bulk of the technical expertise.(2)
Today, it is not at all clear that the nation still needs nuclear weapons
laboratories as we know them in order to maintain a reliable nuclear arsenal.
If the manufacturing plants of the weapons complex, with LANL and Sandia
already among them, retained or in some cases acquired the physical, metallurgical,
and engineering expertise necessary to remanufacture nuclear weapons to
replace those we have, the very large scientific enterprises that define
the three weapons labs today would not be necessary. With fully
tested weapons in the arsenal and an enormous experimental database, with
downsized remanufacturing facilities ready to replace parts as needed,
and with weapons physicists and other scientists organized in small teams
to act as curators of weapons lore, stockpile stewardship tasks could
be easily absorbed in what is today called the stockpile management program.
This approach has been described in more detail elsewhere. (3)
For reasons that will shortly become more clear, among the three labs
it is Sandia that has the best reasons to continue as a full-fledged,
albeit downsized, lab. In brief, this is because Sandia's work is
more closely tied to weapon safety, security, and reliability than is
the work of the other two labs.
Unfortunately, the weapons labs, which are more politically powerful than
the DOE which funds them, can be relied upon to intentionally magnify
their importance and misrepresent the facts in order to preserve their
status and funding. One LANL weapons manager put it bluntly to the
last year: "We have to scare the politicians into
doing the right thing." The right thing, of course, is to keep delivering
about $3.5 billion every year to the three labs.
Instead of what could be a relatively simple and inexpensive curatorship
approach, the DOE, captive of its labs, has opted for what it calls its
"science-based stockpile stewardship" program. This option just
happens to be about the most expensive approach to maintaining a nuclear
deterrent that can be devised, costing, together with the rest of the
nuclear weapons program, more than twice as much as was spent on nuclear
weapons in the middle 1970s
, during which time there was an active
program of materials production, active design, and nuclear testing. (4)
Despite its name, DOE's program is less "science-based" than it
is science debased
, because it is driven by program needs, in this
case weapons program needs, and not scientific inquiry. The vast
bulk of the expense is directed into very narrow fields of investigation.
When World War II was over, the scientists at Project Y remarked how little
science they had done on the mesa as compared to their former work in
universities, despite the unprecedented collection of stellar minds and
the essentially unlimited funding. How much more so is this true
today, when, as we shall see, the main purpose of the program is little
more than maintaining sinecures and skills until the hoped-for day when
active nuclear development is politically fashionable again.
International Considerations Raise Further Questions
International commitments likewise bear centrally on the future of the
labs. In January of this year, John Holum, Director of the Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency, made an important speech at the international
test ban talks in Geneva, where the capabilities and intentions of the
U.S. labs have raised serious concerns. In response to those concerns,
he pledged the U.S. to not develop new nuclear weapons. Such development
is, however, exactly the central historic mission of the labs and it is
the retention of capability to reinitiate design that is the justification
for most of the labs' currently-proposed construction and operating programs.
Not just have we pledged to refrain from developing new weapons, but the
United States has formally agreed to eventually get rid of nuclear weapons
altogether. In the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970,
the United States, along with the other declared nuclear weapons states,
made a commitment to eventual nuclear disarmament in return for a promise
from non-nuclear states not to seek a nuclear capability. This treaty
is very important for U.S. For this reason, the goal of maintaining a
reliable nuclear arsenal, widely-accepted by nuclear decision makers today,
must be considered provisional and, in the final analysis, temporary.
These U.S. treaty pledges, while not yet matched with affirmative policies,
are carefully weighed for sincerity and proof by a host of nations in
determining their support for the world's nonproliferation regime.
The strength of that regime, and of the treaties which embody it, are
far more important to U.S. security than are nuclear weapons, which many
senior military leaders now believe have little positive utility. The
steep downside of breaking those solemn pledges casts doubt upon the wisdom
of most of the nuclear weapons projects at the labs.
Even If We Do Have Large Labs, Why Two Weapons Physics Labs?
LLNL was founded because of
the perceived need to speed the development of thermonuclear explosives,
to create a competitive environment in the development of nuclear weapons
in general, and to provide peer review in nuclear weapons design. Although
after decades of competition the nuclear weapons programs in Livermore
and Los Alamos have evolved to differ in some details, the overall functions
and program areas in each lab's nuclear weapons program are essentially
identical. But does the complexity of maintaining nuclear arsenals
in the absence of nuclear testing require that redundancy?
U.S. nuclear explosives are based on very sophisticated analysis and thorough
testing. But they are very robust, and not very complicated, devices.
As noted above, just about 5% of the parts in the weapon are contained
in the explosive device itself. While there have been several serious
design errors -- errors which destroy confidence in the two-lab peer review
system -- extensive stockpile surveillance data shows that nuclear weapons
have been kept in a highly reliable condition with a very small effort
from the two design labs. (5)
Once a weapon was fully tested, nuclear testing played essentially
no role in maintaining the stockpile.
Within the weapon as a whole, the nuclear explosives themselves have accounted
for a very small fraction of the problems encountered in routine surveillance,
and a small proportion of the number of these problems that required fixes.
The upshot is that the modern weapons selected to remain in the U.S. stockpile
into the next century are extremely safe (6)
and reliable, and the explosive parts of those weapons are in fact the
most reliable parts of them.
caused serious problems in the past, and can be expected
to do so in the future, is the substitution of untested designs for the
fully-tested ones now present in the stockpile. As an independent
panel of nuclear scientists warned DOE in 1995:
However greatest care in the form of self-discipline will be required
to avoid system modifications, even if aimed at "improvements," which
may compromise reliability. (7)
The most reliable weapons are thus the ones we have tested. No new
nuclear designs are needed or wanted. The implication of this is
that maintaining the nuclear arsenal requires skills and capabilities,
but only a small fraction of the design personnel now employed at the
These realities raise serious questions about retaining two huge design
laboratories with essentially redundant missions.
If One Lab Were To Be Eliminated, LLNL Would
Be That One
There are many reasons why LLNL's
role in nuclear weaponry is less secure than is LANL's. There are
the encroaching suburbs; there is the cramped site (a small fraction of
the size of LANL's sprawling 43 square miles); there is the lack of waste
disposal facilities (LANL has its own radwaste dump and is planning a
mixed waste disposal facility); there is the continual drumbeat of protest
in the liberal and relatively affluent East Bay region; and there is the
less-focused senatorial support that LLNL experiences compared to New
Mexico (which contains two labs -- and few other large employers).
But perhaps most important of all, LLNL has nothing like the large plutonium
infrastructure present at LANL, which is soon to be augmented by some
$550 M in upgrades that will provide hundreds of thousands of square feet
of what is essentially modern nuclear factory space. LANL is, in
fact, already an important manufacturing and materials processing site
for the complex. LANL will also have the best hydrodynamic test facilities,
which, though not necessary to maintain the stockpile, are certainly less
superfluous than the National Ignition Facility (see below). Sooner
or later, much of LLNL's plutonium inventory will leave the site, never
to return, not only because of the suburbs, but because LLNL is located
on an active earthquake fault.
Finally, of the eight to ten types (depending on how they are counted)
of weapons slated to remain in the active stockpile after current dismantlements,
only two, the B83 gravity bomb and the W87 ICBM warhead, were Livermore
Congress and the DOE have Questioned the
Need to Retain LLNL's Nuclear Missions
In early 1992, then-Chairman George Brown of
the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee wrote DOE Secretary
Watkins urging him to establish LLNL as a civilian technology laboratory,
transferring LLNL's nuclear defense missions to Los Alamos within a
context of radical downsizing of DOE's nuclear programs.
Although Brown's idea didn't take, a bill was subsequently introduced
by one Republican in the House for a DOE lab closure commission, modelled
after the military base closure process and motivated by a desire to
eliminate the redundancy and waste embodied in the DOE's large laboratory
Watkins' successor, Secretary Hazel O'Leary, brought George Brown's
proposal into the Clinton administration when she spoke of the possibility
of a "green lab" in California. No one had to ask what lab she
was talking about.
Her Advisory Board Task Force on the Futures of the DOE National Laboratories,
usually called the Galvin Panel, recommended after a full year of careful
study that LLNL's defense missions gradually be transferred to Los Alamos.
The Congressional Budget Office, writing in 1994, suggested that closure
of LLNL was an option worth considering, along with downscaling of DOE's
stockpile stewardship plans. They were critical of the National
Ignition Facility (see below) and of DOE's ambitious program to advance
nuclear weapons physics.
All these threats to LLNL's nuclear weapons future were successfully
defeated. But the underlying reasoning behind them remains sound,
and as budget pressures continue to mount, LLNL's raison d'etre
can be expected to undergo close scrutiny again.
Enter the National Ignition
Facility (NIF), a giant laser device that will be as big as a small stadium,
costing about $1.2 billion dollars for design and construction alone.
Given the above questions about LLNL's future, NIF is widely recognized
as a necessary -- though perhaps not sufficient -- bulwark for the lab's
long-term stability. NIF's 192 laser beams, if all goes well, will
create X-rays that focus on a millimeter-scale pellet of tritium and deuterium
to induce a tiny thermonuclear explosion in a process called "inertial
confinement fusion", or ICF.
Ostensibly, the NIF project has three primary goals:
The relative simplicity and high reliability of
the physics package has already been discussed above. Within the
nuclear explosive in turn, the so-called "secondary" has been the most
reliable part, having experienced only one or two trivial problems that
were very easily fixed. These secondaries are sealed and have no
high explosives in them. They have a long life, and are relatively
inexpensive to remanufacture as needed. The U.S. now possesses an
enormous manufacturing overcapacity in this area, which can be maintained
in a standby condition at "minimal" cost. (8)
- To help maintain the U.S. nuclear stockpile
- To advance fusion energy technology
- To contribute to science
- Consider first NIF's defense role. Politically,
it is the only salient one.
These facts are important because NIF's contribution to the stockpile
stewardship program lies in its proposed role in studying nuclear weapons
secondaries -- components which have had essentially no problems and need
little study. If there were problems in the future (which is not
expected), NIF could not really discover or solve them in any case. Those
are tasks for routine surveillance and remanufacturing, which are necessary
and sufficient, as well as far simpler and cheaper.
NIF's link to stockpile maintenance is thus indirect, through its role
in maintaining and training staff. The actual data it would provide
is admitted to be secondary -- at least as far maintaining existing
weapons is concerned.
The whole idea of lasers is for understanding the physics of secondaries,
but also more particularly, for maintaining that cadre of scientists who
both understand the fusion process and all the things that go along with
that...The stewards really are more important than the equipment...the
purpose of the Stockpile Stewardship program is in fact to maintain the
stewards, and the right type of experiments. (9)
In the final analysis, then, the entire so-called "science-based stockpile
stewardship" program, and NIF especially, is really more about maintaining
scientists than it is about maintaining warheads. (10)
As for the second justification for the project -- energy production --
NIF is not on the critical path to any practical fusion energy source,
if indeed "practical" and "fusion energy" can be used in the same sentence.
One reason is that NIF uses glass lasers; glass lasers cannot be
repeatedly fired because the huge pieces of laser glass heat with each
firing and lose the precise alignment required. Heavy-ion drivers,
not lasers, appear to be best route to a higher energy gains in the ICF
And ICF itself is intrinsically a poor choice of fusion technologies,
because its energy release is discontinuous, as well as for other reasons.
More generally still, fusion energy itself is a poor bet, for even if
fusion should become technically feasible, (i.e. if net overall
life-cycle energy production ever becomes positive and the materials and
nuclear waste issues are ever settled) it is unlikely to ever be economically
competitive. Widespread renewable energy sources are already much
cheaper than fusion will ever be. Simply put, the least expensive
and most practical fusion energy source is the sun. Pork-barrel
and special interest politics, embroidered by pseudo-scientific myths
and driven by career investments, have provided most of the push for large-scale
fusion research in the U.S and continue to do so. This is privately
understood within the DOE labs, where the history and prospects for fusion
research are the butt of many cynical jokes.
There is no doubt that NIF could be an interesting tool for physicists;
this last justification for the project is the only one that makes sense.
Yet, were it forced to compete for scarce funds with other experimental
priorities within the physics community, it is doubtful that it would
NIF is beset by other problems. Serious proliferation issues continue
to swirl around the project, ranging from the direct dissemination of
valuable weapons design expertise to other countries, to the indirect
diplomatic effect of investing more than a billion dollars in facility
whose utility for improving weapons design codes, and hence for facilitating
new designs, far exceeds its vanishingly small utility for maintaining
Whether NIF will even work is an open question; DOE has admitted that
expert opinion is guarded on the subject.
All in all, NIF is a perfect example of the kind of big-ticket science
the labs have come to love: huge appropriations (DOE estimates its
life-cycle cost at $4.5 billion), with absolutely no required products
The final question in the present context is: will NIF and its associated
programs be large enough to serve as an anchor for LLNL's future? The
answer is, probably not. The facility is expected to create fewer
than 300 long-term jobs at LLNL, about 4% of the current lab population.
That's about $15 M for each permanent laboratory job created.
Can LLNL Adopt New Missions?
Given the uncertainty surrounding
LLNL's future as well as that of the giant new project designed to keep
the lab open, LLNL might well consider exploring some new missions. In
theory at least, LLNL has the skills to contribute much more than it does
on a variety of valuable scientific and technological fronts. Some
of these are:
- Renewable energy and energy conservation
- Advanced transportation technologies and
- Environmental R&D
- Materials science and manufacturing technologies
- Basic science, pure and applied, in LLNL's
- Advanced computation
- Cooperative work for industry in these and
Thematically, these missions could be linked by the common purpose
of advancing technology that would support, and assist transition to,
a sustainable society. These missions could thus be largely described
by the phrase "sustainable technology." LLNL already has projects
in all the above areas. Some of these programs, particularly those
grouped under LLNL's Energy, Manufacturing, and Transportation (EMATT)
Directorate, have excellent track records.
In addition to this list, LLNL's work on nonproliferation could continue
to provide a valuable service to the national security community. It
would be of benefit to institutionally divorce such nonproliferation
work from the work involved in maintaining nuclear weapons, however,
and thus give LLNL a focus on arms control and disarmament and Los Alamos
the stockpile management role.
So there are alternatives for LLNL other than redundancy and fiscal
irresponsibility on the one hand, and closure on the other. But
there are some serious complications involved in making such a shift.
These complications include:
- LLNL managers will fight conversion with every tool available.
This is because LLNL's nuclear weapons mission is perceived as a unique
national mission and funding niche, while the above new missions are
not. These managers could, in theory at least, get behind a
program that had long-term potential to maintain LLNL's budget at
a very substantial level or even to expand it. In fact, however,
this is unlikely to happen unless large political shifts clearly
threaten to extinguish LLNL's nuclear weapons programs.
The mere threat of cutbacks has, historically, has only redoubled
LLNL's advocacy of its nuclear mission.
- The large-scale funding implied by conversion really comprises
national conversion as well as lab conversion, and this is
at present politically unrealistic. There is now no visible
support in either Congress or the Executive to make this transition.
- The culture of secrecy, the lack of support for new civilian programs
by weapons-obsessed managers, and the competition for funds between
existing weapons programs and new initiatives all make an extremely
challenging environment in which to attempt new missions. It
may well be that in most cases scarce federal funds would be better
spent in environments without these drawbacks. In short and
overall, the corporate culture of LLNL is antithetical to conversion
efforts and may well doom them.
- Trauma will probably therefore be needed at LLNL to bring about
cultural transformation before any new civilian missions can succeed
at any but a small scale. Conversion, by definition, involves
- The scale of the new programs, the type and range of projects pursued,
and the effectiveness of these technologies in meeting societal goals
are all threatened by the new congressional requirement that technology
transfer funds (the bulk of the funds now available for civilian missions
at LLNL, including the EMATT program) be used only in ways that benefit
the military mission of the lab.
- Costs at LLNL remain high, despite some improvements since 1990.
It now costs some $124,000 per year to maintain each LLNL employee,
or about $250,000 per year to maintain each scientist, engineer, or
manager with all supporting staff and costs. Many other fine
institutions, e.g. universities, are available to do advanced
scientific and engineering work at lower costs than this.
These "complications" amount to a near impossibility for what is conventionally
called "conversion" at LLNL. But conversion is only one option for
A Sampler of Options for LLNL's Future
is the DOE's current plan.
While, by definition, it is politically realistic in the short run, it
has the serious problems discussed in the text so far. These problems
will mount over time, either causing distress for LLNL, distress for the
world, or both.
involves nearly full-scale conversion of LLNL to a new
primary mission, probably "sustainable technology" as discussed above.
It has the complications discussed above. The advantages, if such
a transition were possible, are also plain:
- The scale of work, if it is managed well, is large enough to accomplish
significant technical advancement in some or possibly several relevant
technical areas. Such advancement could permanently alter, and
for the better, the economic feasibility of these sustainable technologies,
allowing society to more easily make critically important watershed
- The scale of work constitutes a commitment that implies other synergistic
elements of a national policy, elements that could complement R&D
by, for instance, creating new markets through government incentives
and restrictions, demonstration programs, and other actions. One
such program might be a "Sustainable Communities" initiative, where
an initial government subsidy would be used to provide incentives
to demonstrate a variety of new sustainable technologies, including
perhaps in Livermore.
- Economic trauma to the Livermore community is largely avoided.
- Talent is kept in place at LLNL and not allowed to disperse; this
is of particular concern in the current EMATT program, which could
in many ways be the "seed" of a converted LLNL if it is not disbanded.
(Current budget cuts are already threatening to do this, in
- Providing ample new work can, one theory goes, ease the political
transition of LLNL in Congress. Such ample new work, this theory
continues, may in fact be the only way to politically deal
with the power now vested in LLNL.(11)
It may be that no political sponsors, and no political momentum, can
develop behind new programs unless they be of a certain scale. "Make
no small plans."
- Option One, if it were possible, might aim in a lab downsized somewhat
from present, comparable to the period of relative stability LLNL
enjoyed in the 1965 to 1975 decade, i.e. in the $700 M range.
This option was developed by Tri-Valley CAREs in 1994. (12)
Further analyses of specific expanded missions are now in development
by Tri-Valley CAREs.
Option Two is like Option One, but smaller. It thereby
gains some fiscal feasibility, and deals more effectively with the cultural
transformation required. Many of the disadvantages of Option One
remain, however, coupled with the new problem that political advocacy
for small new programs may itself be small.
Option Three involves downsizing LLNL, then converting
to new missions. It addresses the hard truth that the policy decisions
of downsizing and offering new missions are not, from a national perspective,
intrinsically or logically linked in any way. This fact is repeated
frequently within the lab when the subject of conversion is broached.
To attempt to link them is likely to mangle both decisions, leading
to failure to successfully implement both the downsizing and
the creation and assignment of new R&D tasks. Put another
way, the rhetoric of conversion tends to set value on maintaining LLNL
as an end in itself, which effectively undercuts change. The rhetoric
of conversion is often more paralyzing than creative. Option Three
avoids this trap.
Some of the disadvantages of the previous options are avoided: new
civilian programs need not be grown in a weapons culture, and the restrictions
on funding that tie civilian projects to the weapons program will be
largely gone -- because the weapons money will be largely gone.
Certainly LLNL's leadership and political sponsors will be more eager
in Option Three to embrace new programs of whatever size because that
is all that will be available. Lack of size, uniqueness, and permanence
in the new programs will loom smaller as obstacles.
Studies of defense downsizing in other communities, e.g. Boeing in Seattle,
have shown that the forced release of highly-skilled knowledge workers
into a community with an existing high-technology employment base can
generate new technology products, a large number of business start-ups,
and economic diversification. (13)
Conversion, in other words, need not happen at a single site.
That is, given the economically-isolated nature of nuclear defense work,
a telling number of highly-trained and capable former workers are likely
to enter the "real" economy (regionally, for the most part) and begin
producing goods or services. Many will be considerably more economically
productive than they were at LLNL. It is quite possible that greater
net regional jobs and greater net regional income could be the result,
although most of the displaced workers will themselves lose income in
the process, and this will probably be especially true for those who
can least afford it.
Given a reasonably healthy economy, however, if one believes that LLNL's
scientific and professional staff could not find productive work,
it is then reasonable to also question whether this talent is really,
in fact, all that talented.
The principal disadvantage of this option is that there will be essentially
no technology transfer funds to ease the transition into civilian research
within the lab. Growth in new missions must occur after many of
the excellent seed projects are disbanded. This disadvantage is
somewhat diluted by the relatively high concentration of high-technology
jobs in the LLNL region, which could serve as a skills buffer.
Some facilities at the site could, under this option and the next, be
operated by Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL), out of which LLNL was originally
formed. It might well make sense to consolidate the remnants of
LLNL under its original sponsor, for a variety of reasons.
Option Four is one of closure or near-closure, partial privatization,
and subsequent incremental conversion. It is the logical extension
of Option Three. The principal advantage of this option is clarity.
There would be no LLNL managers to fight conversion, and most
economic uses of the site will be greeted with enthusiasm and weighed
against each other with fresh eyes. The converted site, whatever institutional
ownership it may have, and whatever ownership and funding mosaic may
come, would represent a close partnership between government and industry.
This augurs well for creating regional employment, quite likely
more so on a dollar-for-dollar basis than was LLNL.
Common ground emerges from a close examination of
the last four options above. That common ground comes from the realization
that conversion of LLNL is not one decision but a large suite of decisions,
which will or will not be individually made by a large number of actors.
There is, gratefully, no superintending entity that can centrally
and logically plan the intricately-linked decisions that would comprise
conversion without trauma. These decisions -- the decisions to end
some programs and to begin others -- are independently desirable regardless
of their timing, scale, or linkage. Those qualities depend on political
circumstances which are impossible to understand, predict, or control,
and which are certain to change in unknown ways. We therefore offer
the following mutually-supporting set of recommendations, all of which
we believe have merit independent from all from the others. Taken
as a whole, however, they are even better than the sum of the parts. While
a few of them may seem far afield, actually all of them bear centrally
on the future of LLNL.
- Downsize, initially by a factor of approximately three, the stockpile
stewardship program over a three- to four-year period, after which time
it would be subsumed under the stockpile management program.
- Appropriately downsize LANL and Sandia around their stockpile management
- Significantly downsize the weapons complex either in place or in
consolidated form. While not the subject of this paper, the aggregate
effect of weapons complex pork exerts continual retrograde pressure
on U.S. weapons policy and on DOE stockpile management plans. There
are many thousands of employees at DOE sites across the country that
should not be there.
- Establish a detailed and effective affirmative policy regarding no
new weapons designs and reinitiate bilateral negotiations toward further
stockpile reductions, beginning with a unilateral announcement of significant
further dismantlements. Take other related steps, including a
policy and posture of "no first use," withdrawal of tactical weapons
from Europe, and other confidence-building measures. (A complete
listing of these nuclear posture steps is beyond the scope of this paper.)
- Establish a substantial new fund, using savings gained from the above
economies in DOE weapons activities, to aid Russian dismantlement and
increase security of her nuclear materials. In effect, it is cheaper
and safer to buy down arsenals than to deter them.
- Establish a system of reporting, accountability, and international
transparency in the stockpile management program.
- Halt construction of new facilities in the stewardship program, beginning
with NIF, because they are wasteful, provocative, and unnecessary.
- Transfer the remaining nuclear weapons functions at LLNL to Los Alamos
over approximately a three- to four-year period. Eliminate, privatize,
or transfer most or all of the work now done at LLNL for the Department
- Bring in a new DOE landlord, namely DOE Energy Programs, and reestablish
LLNL as a part of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
- Significantly renew the energy missions of the DOE, with strong emphasis
on sustainable technologies, including such themes as renewable energy,
energy efficiency, new transportation technologies, industrial ecology,
environmental R&D, and materials science and manufacturing technologies.
This renewal should be a synergistic program of R&D (governmental,
academic, and otherwise), and market incentives and should address both
the technology supply (i.e. the industrial) sector and the technology
demand sector (i.e. both households and industry) with performance-based
incentives (both positive and negative) founded on national security,
economic, social, and environmental values. Within DOE, ample
funding for these initiatives is available from the current excess funding
in Defense Programs, even after establishment of the new Russian program
- Eliminate current restrictions on technology transfer funds that
require them to support solely the labs' defense missions, and restore
funding in that program to last year's level. Support that funding
during the downsizing of Defense Programs so that meritorious cooperative
civilian work now being done at LLNL and elsewhere can continue as these
transitions are made.
- Shield the important "seed" programs at LLNL, such as those in the
EMATT program, from loss of key personnel by protecting their funding,
using funds liberated from Defense Programs.
- Let the LBL Livermore site submit proposals for some of this new
energy work, along with other parties in the national lab system, in
universities, and in industry, in the process allowing and encouraging
the cross-institutional and cross-sectoral partnerships that are most
conducive for technical success and eventual commercialization.
- Consider transferring all the arms control, and many of the nonproliferation
functions, of LANL to LBL/Livermore.
- Provide new management mechanisms and reforms in both DOE and its
laboratory contractors to bring the two remaining weapons laboratories
under the control of the DOE. These would include more frequent
independent oversight, restrictions on subsequent employment by DOE
employees; and would include higher pay, stricter qualifications, and
fewer employees at DOE. At the labs this would include slashing
public and "governmental relations" (i.e. lobbying) budgets and the
reform of those practices, new openness policies, stronger employee
rights, competitive bidding of operating contracts, and other measures.
(A complete listing of these reforms is beyond the scope of this paper.)
- Formally close the Nevada Test Site except for its environmental
and energy functions (e.g. cleanup and solar energy demonstration).
This, along with the DOE and lab reforms recommended above, is
very important to bring objectivity into the remaining two labs' presentations
on nuclear weapons issues.
- Review the incentive structure for employees at LLNL with a long-term
view toward decreasing costs by increasing job satisfaction and non-monetary