Nuclear Weapons Complex:

Issues Surrounding Consolidating Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories

T-RCED-92-98: Published: Sep 24, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1992.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear weapons laboratories, focusing on: (1) the research, development, and testing (RD&T) capabilities of the Los Alamos and Livermore National Laboratories; (2) trends in staffing and funding at both DOE weapons laboratories; and (3) options for consolidating both programs. GAO noted that: (1) DOE maintains redundant nuclear warhead RD&T infrastructures to simulate competition between nations; (2) both laboratories' responsibilities include nuclear warhead design, RD&T capabilities, materials and fabrication research, high explosive technology development, and weapons engineering and testing; (3) the concurrent and independent approaches have led to development of specialized knowledge and capabilities; (4) staffing and funding levels have continued to decline, forcing both laboratories to expand areas of development and find alternative funding sources; (5) due to the decrease in funds, some consolidation of the two laboratories is expected; (6) savings are possible through consolidation, but the laboratories believe they are small relative to the entire nuclear weapons complex funding; (7) both laboratories advocate continuing the two-laboratory structure for weapons design; (8) Los Alamos believes that the structure may need to be altered, but both programs must maintain peer review and benefits from competition; and (9) DOE expects to broaden the laboratories' missions to include nuclear waste management and modernization on the nuclear weapons complex.

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