Science and Technology To Combat Terrorism

A continuing challenge to the security of our nation stems from the threat of international and domestic terrorism. Terrorists, whether from well-organized or loosely organized groups, have the advantage of being able to take the initiative in the timing and choice of targets. Terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction represents a particularly dangerous potential threat that must be countered.

Countering terrorism effectively requires close day-to-day coordination among many Executive Branch agencies, including the Departments of State, Justice, Energy, and Defense; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Central Intelligence Agency. Part of the challenge is to identify needs, seek common approaches, and coordinate the development of new technologies to counter terrorism. This is accomplished through the interagency Technical Support Working Group. Priority is given to projects that could be of use to more than one agency, such as portable X-ray machines. In addition, individual agencies conduct research and development for their own specialized needs. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration is developing improved aircraft cargo containers that can withstand explosive devices.

Within the past year, accomplishments include:

    A Department of Energy-developed nonintrusive detection system for chemical agents was successfully used by the U.S. Army during a recent excavation in Washington, D.C., of sealed World War I-era canisters containing chemical substances originally intended for military purposes.

    A detection agent for plastic explosives was developed and tested, an important step in support of the international Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection.

    A portable briefcase-size X-ray system has been developed and is going into production for use in identifying potential explosives.

Additional projects under way include a "smart" detector for shielded nuclear materials; the development of enzymatic decontamination foam surfactants for rapid cleanup of chemical or biological agents; detectors for quickly identifying the presence of biological agents; and passive tagging systems and laser data relay systems to support enhanced surveillance and intelligence operations for counterterrorism purposes.

The U.S. Government is also cooperating with other nations in counterterrorist technology development. Work has begun with Britain, Canada, and Israel involving an initial set of 17 joint projects. This international effort will enhance the research efforts for both the United States and participating nations. Fighting terrorism is a goal we share with our allies and a mission that we can more effectively achieve by jointly applying resources and expertise.

Defense Programs in the Department of Energy

Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship

To reduce the global nuclear danger, the United States and Russia are implementing unprecedented arms reduction agreements by rapidly dismantling large portions of the U.S. and former Soviet nuclear arsenals. In 1992 the United States entered a moratorium on underground nuclear testing, halted the development and production of new nuclear weapons; and began closing portions of the weapons complex no longer needed to support the stockpile of the future. But the United States will continue to maintain nuclear forces of sufficient size and capability to deter nuclear attack against the United States or its friends and allies by any future adversary with access to strategic nuclear forces.

The Clinton Administration is committed to ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of our enduring nuclear weapons stockpile and has developed the science-based Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program to meet this national need. This technical program aims to maintain our high level of confidence in the safety and performance of our nuclear weapons as we pursue our arms control and nonproliferation objectives.

The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program will give us the ability to respond to problems concerning the safety or reliability of the stockpile in a timely manner by maintaining our national expertise in nuclear weapons. The functions of the program are monitoring and evaluating the stockpile; modifying and repairing present weapon systems while ensuring full confidence in their operability; demonstrating manufacturing capability; certifying and recertifying the safety and performance of weapons; and most important, maintaining the competency base of nuclear weapons experts.

The new program changes the weapons stewardship paradigm from a large and expensive complex with excess capacity to a capability-based complex able to meet the requirements of the future stockpile. The nuclear weapons laboratories will assume more responsibility for production and remanufacturing capability in addition to their responsibilities for scientific understanding. Retaining the capability to rebuild our stockpile in a national emergency is an important condition to the consideration of further reduction in our active stockpile.

S&T Priorities for Defense Programs in the Department of Energy

The Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program is intended to gain an improved scientific understanding of age-related changes that might affect system safety or performance. Improved understanding of warhead behavior over time will be obtained from enhanced computational and experimental capabilities. Enhancements essential to computational simulations of nuclear weapon performance include a thousand-fold increase in computational speed and data storage; three-dimensional modeling of components; and increases in spatial resolution of models. Improved experimental capabilities will come from high resolution, multiple-time, multiple-view hydrodynamic experiments (dynamic radiography) and pulsed-power and laser-based experiments.

Development of advanced manufacturing and materials technologies will eliminate the need for large facilities and infrastructure. We are developing advanced manufacturing concepts for a smaller, agile production complex to produce replacement weapons components in small batch sizes in a timely, affordable, and safe manner.

The advanced manufacturing and materials technologies to be developed include computer-generated solid models of products; electronic information about materials properties; predictive computer models of manufacturing processes; and sensor-based adaptive process control of manufacturing.

Other research is aimed at continued improvements in the surveillance of the effects of aging on nuclear weapons. This will provide our scientists and engineers a more solid basis for anticipating, identifying, and solving new problems or remedying defects that may occur in the enduring stockpile as it ages. Enhanced weapons and materials surveillance technologies include predictive models based on materials science; nondestructive evaluation technologies to examine weapon components; and sensors built into stockpile weapons to monitor indicators of aging.

Tritium is required for all weapons in the enduring U.S. stockpile. Recycling tritium from dismantled weapons will satisfy stockpile requirements into the next decade, at which time some means of tritium production will be required. The Department of Energy is currently considering several production options, including accelerator; advanced light-water reactor; and modular high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor technologies.

Meeting the expected needs of the future will require upgrades of existing facilities and construction of some new facilities that have applications in scientific research and in strengthening the scientific understanding of weapons physics. Facilities will also be needed to allow for flexible manufacturing of materials and replacement components.