Key Accomplishments of the Stockpile Stewardship Program

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance

Key Point: The Stockpile Stewardship Program successfully sustains the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile in the absence of nuclear explosive testing.

The Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) originated in the mid-1990s to maintain the continued safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons in the absence of nuclear explosive testing. A key goal of the SSP is to increase scientific understanding of nuclear device performance, as well as the aging behavior of weapon materials and components. Today, the Directors of the National Laboratories assess that we understand more now about how nuclear weapons work than during the period of nuclear explosive testing.

The SSP is supported by a wide range of National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) activities, including weapon system-specific assessments, Science and Engineering Campaigns, Stockpile Services, and Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities. The NNSA conducts a robust and extensive surveillance program, collecting data from flight tests, laboratory tests, and component evaluations in order to assess stockpile reliability, safety and performance. NNSA also conducts experiments to understand more fully the behavior of materials at extreme conditions relative to nuclear performance; update computer models; and validate predictions against experimental results. The results are used to produce the Annual Assessment Reports and Laboratory Director letters to the President. These programs and activities have enabled the Secretaries of Defense and Energy to report to the President that the stockpile is safe and reliable for more than 15 years.

Examples of recent Stockpile Stewardship accomplishments:

  • Sustained the stockpile with the delivery of all scheduled Limited Life Components for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012.
  • Resolved and closed Significant Finding Investigations.
  • Completed surveillance and assessments for all weapon systems in support of the Annual Assessment process, resulting in delivery of the Laboratory Director Letters to the President.
  • Exceeded weapons dismantlement goals for FY 2012.
  • Slightly exceeded planned production levels for the W76-1 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) warhead.
  • Completed all FY 2012 intended activities scheduled for the W88 SLBM warhead Alteration 370, which replaces the arming, fuzing, and firing system.
  • Initiated B61-12 nuclear bomb Phase 6.3 development engineering activities and released B61-12 nuclear bomb Weapon Design and Cost Report to enable a FY 2019 First Production Unit.
  • Completed Gemini series of subcritical experiments at Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), relying on a new Photon Doppler Velocimetry (PDV) diagnostic, enabling vastly improved data collection.
  • Progressed understanding of equations of state of gases and material properties of plutonium using experiments at TA-55 at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (JASPER) facility at NNSS, and the Z Facility at Sandia National Laboratories.
  • Developed advanced safety, security, and use control/denial technologies and assessment technologies, and validated use of ion radiation to simulate neutron damage.
  • Characterized the aging behavior of legacy and new materials and components.
  • Completed National Ignition Facility (NIF) commissioning at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and diagnostic development under the National Ignition Campaign (NIC) and transitioned to routine experimental operations in support of stockpile stewardship and ignition science.
  • Continued progress in the development of the direct-drive ignition alternative on Omega at the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics.
  • Achieved progress in magnetically-driven implosions on the Z Facility.
  • Continued investment in a common computing and joint Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science/ NNSA collaboration on computing and simulation requirements.
  • Irradiated a cumulative total of 1,872 tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBAR) to provide new tritium to sustain inventory.
  • Safely and securely completed 126 shipments by the Office of Secure Transportation without compromise or loss of components or release of radioactive material, and attained the first production units for the Overland Palletized Unit Shipper, a new specialized shipping container.

Many additional, similar examples of accomplishments of the SSP could be listed for past years. In the roughly 15 years since it was established, the SSP has evolved into a robust tool for maintaining high confidence in the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without underground nuclear explosive testing. In 2012, NNSA commemorated the 20th anniversary of the last U.S. nuclear explosive test and the success of the SSP, noting that the United States has no need and no plans to conduct such nuclear explosive tests in the future.