National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA Sites Host Head of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)

December 4, 2015

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From left, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington; Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO); and NNSA Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Brigadier General Stephen L. Davis standing in a pipe in a test tunnel that was formerly used for underground nuclear explosive testing at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), recently visited three National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sites—Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)—to discuss NNSA’s support for CTBT-related efforts and learn more about how the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) enables the United States to maintain its nuclear deterrent while observing a moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. The SSP marked its 20th anniversary this year and draws extensively on technical assets across the NNSA complex.

The United States conducted its last nuclear explosive test in September 1992, and was the first country to sign the CTBT when it opened for signature in September 1996. Although the Treaty has not entered into force, the United States, in large part with NNSA expertise, supports all aspects of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission’s nuclear explosion monitoring and verification mission.  

The Executive Secretary’s visit kicked off at LLNL, and then continued to NNSS and LANL, with experts from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) joining at LANL. After a visit to the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington and Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Brigadier General Stephen L. Davis welcomed Dr. Zerbo and his CTBTO colleagues to NNSS.

The NNSS visit was Dr. Zerbo’s first to the site and provided the unique opportunity to highlight how it has transformed. Once known primarily as the site of more than 900 nuclear explosive tests, NNSS currently serves as an experimental testing facility and training ground for a variety of missions vital to U.S. and international safety and security. Joining Dr. Zerbo were Randy Bell, Director of the International Data Centre (IDC) Division at the CTBTO, and other CTBTO staff.

Ms. Harrington welcomed the CTBTO visitors: “I’m pleased that we can demonstrate for Dr. Zerbo, the CTBTO and the international community our significant commitment to maintain the safety and security of our nuclear deterrent in the absence of nuclear explosive testing. We will continue to work closely with the CTBTO to support their mission to deter and detect nuclear explosions, and we appreciate the opportunity to show Dr. Zerbo the many ways in which NNSA is working to make the world a safer place by reducing nuclear and radiological dangers.”

General Davis added, “Driven by the commitment to no longer perform nuclear explosive testing, we recently marked twenty years of success in the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Dr. Zerbo and his team saw some of our most important facilities and capabilities and met the men and women of NNSA who maintain our Nation's nuclear capabilities while complying with international commitments. In addition, we were able to clearly demonstrate how these same Stockpile Stewardship capabilities directly contribute to NNSA’s nonproliferation mission.”

Dr. Zerbo shared his perspective on the Treaty’s benefits with NNSA experts as he toured the three NNSA sites. At LLNL, he visited the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), National Ignition Facility (NIF), and viewed high performance computing capabilities in support of both SSP and nonproliferation, in addition to discussions of CTBT support. At NNSS, he saw the up-close effects of decades of atmospheric and underground nuclear explosive testing, visiting Yucca Flat, Frenchman Flat, and the Sedan Crater. He also visited the U1a Facility, an underground laboratory for subcritical experiments, to see how the United States uses science to maintain the safety and security of its stockpile rather than nuclear explosive testing. Dr. Zerbo also learned about nuclear explosion monitoring and verification efforts conducted at NNSS in collaboration with the NNSA National Laboratories. At LANL, he toured the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) Facility and heard about both LANL and SNL’s extensive technological and scientific work in support of CTBT and SSP, in addition to touring the Bradbury Science Museum.

At the conclusion of his visit to the NNSA sites, Dr. Zerbo said, “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to visit NNSA’s sites to learn more about the work being done there in support of the nuclear test-ban including how the Stockpile Stewardship Program allows the United States to continue to forgo nuclear explosive testing. The U.S. has been a great partner to the CTBTO, and during this trip we discussed ways to broaden and deepen our cooperation. Visiting Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory again allowed me to see the National Ignition Facility and learn more about Lawrence Livermore’s extensive work in support of CTBT. My first ever visits to the Nevada National Security Site, where so many nuclear explosive tests were conducted, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, allowed me to see firsthand not only the history at those sites but also the cutting-edge science and technology that will help to continue improving the CTBTO’s monitoring and verification capabilities.”

Senior officials at each site joined the meetings and tours, presenting overviews of the sites’ missions and activities. LLNL’s Director, Dr. William Goldstein, welcomed Dr. Zerbo on the first stop of his visit. At NNSS, Nevada Field Office Manager Steve Lawrence and Jim Holt, Acting President of National Security Technologies, LLC (NSTec) joined Dr. Zerbo for the day. At LANL, Principal Associate Director for Global Security Dr. Terry Wallace served as the host. Sandia National Laboratories Director Jill Hruby also met with Dr. Zerbo and the CTBTO visitors.

NNSA’s support for the CTBTO focuses on strengthening all aspects of the international nuclear explosion monitoring and verification regime. For example, NNSA provided substantial support for the preparation and execution of the CTBTO’s recent large-scale on-site inspection Integrated Field Exercise 2014 (IFE14). NNSA experts also work regularly with CTBTO staff to improve the capabilities for on-site inspections and of the International Monitoring System, supported by the International Data Centre in Vienna, Austria.

To see the NNSA’s Press Release for this visit, click here.

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Charles Carrigan of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), shows Zerbo some of the monitoring equipment used for verification during on-site inspections.
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Tom Anklam, an LLNL engineer, explains to Zerbo how the 192 laser beams inside the National Ignition Facility ignite a target.
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At the target bay of the National Ignition Facility at LLNL.
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From left, Zerbo, Harrington and Davis prepare to enter a tunnel that was formerly used for underground nuclear explosive testing at the NNSS.
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Stuart Rawlinson, a facility manager for the NNSS, gives a briefing in a tunnel formerly used for underground nuclear explosive testing.
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Terry Priestly of Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) Facility explains the function of an imaging component.
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Priestly showing Dr. Zerbo and his staff a cathode from the DARHT facility at LANL.