Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

High-speed photograph of a controlled surface explosion at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, similar to the explosions at White Sands Missile Range were used in a study of seismic signals to detect above-ground explosions.

Photo credit:
Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Counter-WMD Test Support Division (CXT)

PLS researchers use seismic signals to track above-ground explosions 

May 20, 2015

Lawrence Livermore researchers have determined that a tunnel bomb explosion by Syrian rebels was less than 60 tons as claimed by sources.

Using seismic stations in Turkey, PLS scientists Michael Pasyanos and Sean Ford created a method to determine source characteristics of near-earth surface explosions. They found the above-ground tunnel bomb blast under the Wadi al-Deif Army Base near Aleppo last spring was likely not as large as originally estimated and was closer to 40 tons.

Seismology has long been used to determine the source characteristics of underground explosions, such as yield and depth, and plays a prominent role in nuclear explosion monitoring. But now some of the same techniques have been modified to determine the strength and source of near and above-ground blasts.

Roger Sandoval assembles solid radiochemical collection (SRC) diagnostics in the NIF Target Diagnostics Factory. SRC diagnostics are solid surfaces that capture activation products from the target after the shot.

Providing data for nuclear detectives 

March 2, 2015

Fans of the popular TV series "CSI" know that the forensics experts who investigate crime scenes are looking for answers to three key questions: "Who did it; how did they do it; and can we stop them from doing it again?"

The field of nuclear forensics, an important element of LLNL's national security mission, has similar goals and uses similar techniques — but with even higher stakes.

"In nuclear forensics, we want to know first, is someone able to put together the parts to make a nuclear weapon and set it off?" said LLNL nuclear chemist Dawn Shaughnessy, who leads the experimental and nuclear radiochemistry group in the Physical and Life Sciences Directorate. "And second, if one is set off, can we find out who did it, how they did it and are they going to do it again?

Lawrence Livermore 'space cops' to help control traffic in space 

January 22, 2014

A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists are using mini-satellites that work as "space cops" to help control traffic in space.

The scientists used a series of six images over a 60-hour period taken from a ground-based satellite to prove that it is possible to refine the orbit of another satellite in low earth orbit.