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The Nevada National Security Site U1a Complex is an underground laboratory used for subcritical experiments and physics experiments to obtain technical information about the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, to maintain the safety and reliability of the stockpile. Subcritical experiments use chemical high explosives to generate high pressures applied to Special Nuclear Material. Self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, or criticality, cannot occur and experiments are consistent with the U.S. nuclear testing moratorium. Our team designs and reviews containment plans of all NNSS subcritical and nuclear tests.

The containment team is a leader in designing underground tests and engineering test beds by leveraging years of underground testing experience with extensive knowledge of geologic systems, fracture networks, seismic network data, infrasound expertise and optimized detector deployment.

What We Do

  • Test bed design and development. 
  • Underground nuclear explosion detection, monitoring and discrimination.
  • Diagnostic device placement and optimization.
  • Maintenance of LANL’s capabilities in test readiness.
  • Analysis of underground tests to improve physics calculation performance.
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Primary Expertise

  • Design and review containment plans for experiments at the underground complex at Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) used for subcritical experiments and physics experiments to help maintain the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • Test bed science (engineering, instrumentation, monitoring) and design for underground explosive testing.
  • Scaling, coupling, and containment research.
  • Radiochemistry of post-detonation environment.
  • Simulation of fluid flow and transport of post-detonation environment.

Featured Projects

The Containment Team’s current contributions to NNSA programs to support advancement of nuclear detection capabilities and stockpile stewardship. 

  • Source Physics Experiment (SPE) is a long-term research and development effort designed to improve U.S. arms control and nuclear nonproliferation monitoring, verification, and discrimination capabilities through a series of subsurface chemical explosion performed in the subsurface at NNSS. Contact: Cathy Snelson.
  • Low-Yield Nuclear Monitoring (LYNM) is designed to improve capabilities in distinguishing low- to no-yield weapons development activities from natural occurrences though underground chemical explosion test and scientific research. We provide scientific understanding to address key challenges in confidently detecting and assessing nuclear tests, globally. Contact: Phil Stauffer 
  • LANL testbed development: Performing low-cost experiments for advancing containment science, testing and deploying new subsurface containment diagnostics, and collecting signatures in shallow, unconsolidated environments using LANL sites. Contact: Garrett Euler
  • U1a SubCritical Experiments (SCE) performs subcritical and physics experiments in the U1a, an underground laboratory located at NNSS, to provide technical information to help maintain the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Contact: Garrett Euler