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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) successfully executed its first subcritical experiment since 2003 on Feb. 13 at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) U1a facility. The experiment—dubbed "Ediza"—took place deep below the desert floor and was the culmination of a five-year campaign aimed at capturing high-fidelity plutonium data in support of nuclear stockpile safety.
Subcritical experiments allow researchers to study how nuclear materials react to high explosives without conducting a traditional nuclear test. The contained experiments are specifically designed to make sure they remain below the threshold of criticality. In the case of Ediza, researchers used high explosives to implode plutonium, capturing numerous, detailed scientific measurements that will will be compared with supercomputer simulations.
Safety - Science - Experiment - Barbara - Kornblum
"We are advancing safety science with this subcritical experiment," said Barbara Kornblum, LLNL's lead design physicist on the experimental series. "Ediza is the first experiment of its kind, and it provides us with unique plutonium data."
As the plutonium imploded, researchers were able to capture high-quality radiographic images relevant to stockpile safety. These images are similar to X-ray images taken by a dentist, but are more than a thousand times more powerful than a dental X-ray. Those radiographs and data from other diagnostics will be compared with supercomputer simulations that predicted the implosion. Comparing those simulations with the experimental data allows scientists to improve the physics models, enabling more realistic simulations and, ultimately, more confidence when assessing stockpile safety.
Ediza - Experiment - Sierra - Nevada - Series
Ediza was the final experiment in the "Sierra Nevada" series, which was a tri-lab collaboration between LLNL and its counterparts at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment, with support...
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