Tags: U.S. | Tries | Plug | Nuke | Brain | Drain

U.S. Tries to Plug Nuke Brain Drain

Wednesday, 27 February 2002 12:00 AM

A big part of the answer – accumulating, organizing and digitizing the huge store of recorded knowledge – has been foiled temporarily by budget cuts. Los Alamos’ Stephen Lee wants to put about 8 million paper records and 19 unconnected data bases together in a searchable and secure archives. That project is on hold.

But even when the archiving effort gets under way in earnest, there is still the issue of formalizing what Lee describes as the "storytelling culture” that has evolved in the rarefied ranks of the nuclear weapons experts. And an important part of that culture is the hands-on exercise of showing students the tricks of the trade of cramming megatons into warheads.

Many compare the education gap to trying to teach a youngster to ride a bike by reading instructions in a manual.

That imperative show-and-tell element was given a vital boost six years ago when "Titans,” the Theoretical Institute for Thermonuclear and Nuclear Studies, was kicked off at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In this rigorous three-year course attended by students already armed with doctorates, the storytelling from the experienced hands to the novices comes in lectures and demonstrations.

"It provides an easily accessible forum for digesting a large amount of information efficiently,” student Charles Nickhieh told Wired recently, "rather than finding out each of these bits of information from someone in the hallway.”

The "faculty” of Titans is drawn from the shrinking cadre of scientists with first-hand design experience. For instance, at Los Alamos, of the more than 12,000 workers, fewer than 50 have such credentials.

Many of these invaluable personnel, says Wired, admit to being less than rigorous in codifying and preserving their own expertise. This is not owing to laziness or indifference but to the natural disincentive to write papers that would become "secret” and the responsibility of the author.

In the meantime, the mission of these lab warriors, young and old, is evolving.

A key post-Cold War task is to maintain and certify the aging stockpile of some 10,000 nuclear weapons. Components of these weapons, nuclear and non-nuclear, are not immune from the ravages of time. The formal name of this mission: the Stockpile Stewardship Program, initiated in the Clinton administration.

Tough duty, say the experts, who concede that certifying weapons without real testing is at best problematic despite big advances in computer simulation.

But even more tough duty is on the horizon.

The latest defense studies indicate that the old mega-kiloton, multi-warhead missiles in the nation’s inventory need to be augmented by low-yield single-warhead weapons adept at blasting terrorist bunkers and such vital targets as biological-warfare agent manufacturing sites.

Much like the Manhattan Project of World War II, the potential re-tooling has provoked controversy in the ranks. Some suggest that the manufacturing of a new breed of nukes would be the salvation of the labs. Other, however, see a moral dilemma.

Says John Pike, a defense analyst at GlobalSecurity.org: "For the last half century we have done everything in our power to tell people that nuclear weapons are different. The existence of nuclear weapons places an upper limit on the level of violence that is conceivable in war ….

"The notion that we would break that taboo, and tell people that nuclear weapons are just like dynamite is inconceivable.”

So far Congress has been on the side of those who want to maintain the nuclear arsenal as a deterrent. Last year, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., moved to overturn a law banning the development of nukes with a yield smaller than 5 kilotons. That effort failed, but he succeeded in getting a mandate passed directing the Department of Energy to study the feasibility of low-yield nukes.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, Bush would not rule out nuclear retaliation. Furthermore, by law the nation’s nuclear labs must stand ready to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons. The question remains whether the new terror age will spawn a new age of nukes used on the battlefield rather than remaining silent specters of deterrence in silos and submarines.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
A big part of the answer - accumulating, organizing and digitizing the huge store of recorded knowledge - has been foiled temporarily by budget cuts. Los Alamos' Stephen Lee wants to put about 8 million paper records and 19 unconnected data bases together in a searchable...
U.S.,Tries,Plug,Nuke,Brain,Drain
675
2002-00-27
Wednesday, 27 February 2002 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved