Jane VaynmanDOE Announcement on RRW Today

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Department of Energy plans to announce the reliable replacement warhead contract today:

The Energy Department will announce today a contract to develop the nation’s first new hydrogen bomb in two decades, involving a collaboration between three national weapons laboratories, The Times has learned.

The new bomb will include design features from all three labs, though Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area appears to have taken the lead position in the project. The Los Alamos and Sandia labs in New Mexico will also be part of the project.

Teams of scientists in California and New Mexico have been working since last year to develop the new bomb, using the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

The weapon is known as the reliable replacement warhead and is intended to replace aging warheads now deployed on missiles aboard Trident submarines.

The contract decision was made by the Nuclear Weapons Council, which consists of officials from the Defense Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Energy Department. Plans were underway Thursday to announce the award this afternoon.

The article also has some info on the design that was selected, and why it looks like Livermore will be taking the lead:

The design details are secret, but Livermore’s version utilizes major components that had been tested — though not produced — for a Navy bomb about two decades ago.

By contrast, Los Alamos selected a design that involved an atomic trigger and a thermonuclear component that had been tested individually.

However, the two elements were never tested together, said Philip Coyle, who serves on scientific advisory committees and formerly was deputy director at Livermore.

The Los Alamos design is said to contain highly attractive features, including innovative mechanisms that would prevent terrorists from detonating the bomb should they gain access to it, experts said. Those use controls were cited by military officials as a key factor in developing the weapon.

Comments

  1. Harry (History)

    Why exactly does the US want a new H-bomb, i.e., an H-bomb with a new design? Don’t we now have the ability to annihilate any nation with existing thermonuclear devices? ”… would prevent terrorists from detonating the bomb …” We can’t keep terrorists from our nuclear weapons?! Then let’s spend a little more money on doing that! The cost to the taxpayer will be secret. Why? Because it is a weapon or because taxpayers would not allow it if they knew the cost? I know the answer.

  2. Amit Joshi

    The design resulting from this program will have to be validated and not just to ensure that it works reliably. Any deployment of this design will effectively lower the bar for countries seeking to go nuclear. Rising computational power means that a new type of nuclear state could claim to have nukes based on designs derived from simulations without explosive testing. And since explosive testing is no longer deemed necessary, that claim would be credible if backed up by other infrastructure.

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