National Nuclear Security Administration

LLNL renovates four Cold War-era radiochemistry laboratories

October 2, 2018

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NNSA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory staff tour the newly refurbished radiochemistry laboratory.
NNSA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory staff tour the newly refurbished radiochemistry laboratory.
A Building 151 radiochemistry laboratory before renovations at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
A Building 151 radiochemistry laboratory before renovations at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

NNSA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) staff recently got an early peek at four newly renovated radiochemistry laboratories. The four laboratories are essential to fulfill NNSA’s nuclear weapons stockpile annual assessments and execute life extension programs.

An increase in mission-relevant work for the weapons and nuclear threat reduction programs at LLNL required the outdated 50-year old laboratories get a much needed update. The laboratories had become obsolete to support the increased workload and had become safety risks for the workers.

“The renovation is a significant step to ensuring that NNSA and Lawrence Livermore’s national security workforce have the tools needed to accomplish the mission while maintaining the highest levels of safety and efficiency” said Jim McConnell, NNSA’s Associate Administrator for Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations.

A Building 151 radiochemistry at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during construction.
A Building 151 radiochemistry at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory during construction.

The renovated labs are located within the lab’s cornerstone radiological facility, where radiochemical data and analyses are a key function of nuclear stockpile programs. The radiochemistry capabilities also support LLNL and NNSA missions such as nuclear forensics, high-energy-density experiments at the National Ignition Facility, as well as a broad array of fundamental science and technology projects.

 “The new laboratories will create a safe and modern work environment for our staff and will improve our ability to recruit new talent to support the nuclear, chemical, and isotope science core competencies at LLNL,” said Sonia Letant, division leader for the lab’s Nuclear and Chemical Services Division.

A refurbished radiochemistry laboratory at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
A refurbished radiochemistry laboratory at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

With construction complete, the radiochemistry laboratories are undergoing various functional testing and certification processes, and should be operating by early December. These renovations are the first of a three-phase investment in this facility. Further modernizations will include renovation of additional labs and installation of seismically secure gloveboxes.

NNSA’s commitment to modernizing these radiochemical laboratories enables scientists to maintain relevancy for LLNL’s advanced science mandates and the nation’s evolving mission needs. By improving operational efficiencies, creating flexible work spaces, and facilitating new radiochemical capabilities, these renovated laboratories will provide a training ground for future generations of weapons and nuclear forensics scientists.