LANL Director Thom Mason Speaks To LACACIS On Leveraging Science Against National Security Threats – Los Alamos Daily Post

Posted: December 22, 2019 at 11:45 am


Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason presented a talk Thursday evening about leveraging the nations scientific base against national security threats.

Mason was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security meeting at the United Church of Los Alamos.

The Lab is in the business of applying science and technology to constantly changing geopolitical realities, Mason said.

He explained that with the fall of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attack that occurred in 2001, the focus of nuclear deterrence changed from attacks by nation-states to terrorism by extremist groups.

Hopes were high that Russia and China were moving toward peacefully joining the world community, he said. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2018 and new Chinese leadership that departed from the previous peaceful rise strategy, things have changed dramatically, he said.

Although Ukraine is not in NATO, the Baltic States are, and they feel threatened by Russia, Mason said. The reality is if Russia wanted to move into the Baltic States, the things that prevent it are NATO and the nuclear deterrent.

China also has rattled its saber in its region, he said.

The nuclear deterrent affects the actions of others, Mason said. You dont have to use it for it to be effective.

The deterrent also affects the security decisions of allies like Japan and South Korea who depend on us, rather than developing their own nuclear weapons, Mason said.

They have the capacity to become nuclear powers if they are not convinced we have their backs, he said.

Current nuclear powers have followed the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in committing to reduce nuclear arms. Nuclear testing ended in 1992 when the first START treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was entered into by the U.S. and the USSR. Current nuclear powers have followed the START guidelines to end testing, although not compelled by it, Mason said.

The only way wanna-be nuclear powers get there is through testing, he said. Thats why it shines a bright light every time the earth shakes in North Korea.

Riding the tiger of maintaining the nuclear arsenal without tests, through the use of scientific tools is a big part of LANLs mission, Mason said. Most of the weapons were relatively new when testing ended, having mostly been built in the 1980s, but now its 40 years down the road.

The whole key to deterrence is to make sure the weapons will work, and enemies must have confidence they will work, Mason said.

LANL has a number of life extension programs, including replacing aging components and changes to improve safety and security as well as address environmental concerts, he said.

Particle accelerators at Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) are used to film and understand materials at extremes. The DNNSC free electron laser that Mason hopes will be built at LANL, brings an exquisite ability to understanding how microstructure of material affects its mechanical properties, he said.

Computational tools provide another way forward in both stockpile stewardship as well as other modeling jobs such as tracking climate change, Mason said.

Computational tools can go where experiments cant, he said.

Another task is the development of sensors to be used in treaty verification, Mason said.

LANLs mission is to create what Mason calls a deterrence of knowledge or the demonstrated capacity of the nation to respond to emergency threats.

Potential enemies must be convinced that, No matter what you come up with, well be smart enough to counter it, Mason said.

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LANL Director Thom Mason Speaks To LACACIS On Leveraging Science Against National Security Threats - Los Alamos Daily Post

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