February 12, 2001
The Need for the Atlas Pulsed Power Experimental Facility
In 1993, the Department of Energy proposed developing the Atlas Pulsed Power Experimental Facility (Atlas) as part of its effort to assure the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile after the moratorium on below-ground nuclear weapons testing. The $49 million facility was intended to produce more than 30 million amperes of electric current for weapon-physics experiments to allow validation of certain elements of nuclear weapons computer codes. Once authorized, Atlas was assembled within budget and on time. The assembled facility is currently undergoing acceptance testing and in December, 2000, Atlas discharged 28.7 million amperes of current, duplicating the world record for current produced by a capacitor bank with only 75 percent of the facility's design voltage used. According to the Director of Physics at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, given the success of its operation to date, the Atlas facility was expected to become a valuable tool for stockpile stewardship experimentation. The objective of the audit was to evaluate issues that have been raised relating to the need for Atlas.