NNSA Implements Nondestructive Gas Sampling Technique for Nuclear Weapon Components

Press Release
Jun 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has deployed a nondestructive process at its Y-12 facility for assessing nuclear weapon components as part of its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, called Nondestructive Laser Gas Sampling (NDLGS).

The NDLGS system is capable of assessing the internal gas constituents of hazardous components in a nondestructive manner. NDLGS demonstrated first use on a W76 Retrofit Evaluation System Test unit on May 3, 2012. The technology is anticipated to save several million dollars per year by reaccepting weapon components back into the stockpile in a nondestructive manner and avoid the cost of new manufacture. In addition, the process greatly improves the safety and minimizes workers exposure to hazardous material.

Gas Sampling Technique Guy“We’re continually innovating and working to improve the way we do business, and NDLGS is a big step for us,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook. “The new process helps NNSA deliver President Obama’s nuclear security agenda and continues to ensure the safety, security and effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent without underground testing.”

The new system, which is deployed at NNSA’s Y-12 facility, was made possible through collaboration among scientists and engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Y-12 and the Pantex Plant. The automated system combines precision laser processing technology with a high-performance vacuum system to detect low-levels of gas constituents within sealed volumes. The result is an accurate gas sample of the weapon component interior and allows for the ability to reaccept the component back into the stockpile. NNSA also plans to use this capability to improve trending for aging affects by gas sampling weapon components multiple times.

NNSA sponsored and managed the development of the technology through a joint collaboration of the Engineering Campaign’s Enhanced Surveillance Sub-program and the W76 Weapon Stockpile Services Program. In addition, the laser processing aspect of the technology is a joint LANL/Y-12 entry for a 2012 R&D 100 award.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.