Stockpile Stewardship Program
A primary mission of the NNSS is to help ensure the Nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, reliable, and secure from our enemies. To accomplish this, Stockpile Stewardship deploys a wide range of science and technologies, focused on experiments in weapons science and the potential for weapons dismantlement.
Since the United States no longer conducts full-scale nuclear tests – the U.S. voluntarily ended underground nuclear testing in 1992 – Stockpile scientists and engineers now obtain data from breakthrough scientific experiments, engineering audits and analysis, high-tech computer simulations, and world-class diagnostic measurement systems. To keep existing warheads reliable, secure, and safe, every aspect of a weapon’s performance is meticulously studied so the national laboratories can predict not only what will happen during an explosion (i.e., measurements within billionths of a second), but also measure what will happen to a device as it changes and ages over time, as the nuclear arsenal is now more than 50 years old.
The NNSS has a number of unique facilities and capabilities directly contributing to the continued certification of the nuclear deterrent.
The Birth of the Stockpile Stewardship Program
The Stockpile Stewardship Program was established in response to the 1994 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 103-160) which requires, in the absence of nuclear testing, a program to:
As the civilian steward of the nation's nuclear weapons complex, the NNSA is responsible for the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear arsenal. The DoD partners with the DOE in setting requirements and establishing production goals. A key challenge to the Stockpile Stewardship Program is to balance military weapon performance goals against civilian and military surety and safety concerns.
Assessment and Certification
In the absence of nuclear testing, different experiments and tools are relied on to obtain data relevant to nuclear warhead performance as components within a warhead potentially change properties with age. The Stockpile Stewardship Program utilizes several approaches to assess and certify the nuclear weapons stockpile. Test data from new experiments and improved computer modeling help address the reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile by allowing scientists to improve understanding of the dynamic properties of aging nuclear materials.
A suite of enhanced capabilities and facilities across the Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE), which includes weapons laboratories, production plants, and the NNSS, have been developed to fill in the knowledge gaps and to provide data relevant to identified stockpile concerns. Capabilities specific to the NNSS include the following: