Early Lab-to-Lab in Five Documents

Lab-to-Lab: US-Russian Lab-to-Lab Collaboration Story [Archived]

Early Lab-to-Lab | Export Control | Nielsen Jr. | Symposia | WSSX
Physics | Reminiscences of Russia | Caroline (Cas) Mason

The documents in this selection are related to the beginning of the lab-to-lab collaborations. They were mentioned in stories narrated by Sig Hecker (Conversation with Sig Hecker, Vol. I, Chapter 2, Lab Directors Exchange Visits) and William Dunlop (My Recollections of the Beginning of the Lab-to-Lab Programs, Vol.1, Chapter 2). Previously unpublished and some of them confidential, they can now be released in the public domain. We present them in chronological order.

November 1991

William Dunlop writes in his Recollections about a paper that he prepared in November of 1991 as head of Treaty Verification Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) assessing nuclear proliferation risks of the potential breakup of the Soviet Union. The paper offered ideas of how scientific cooperation between Soviet and American scientists could potentially help to reduce these new dangers. Dunlop sent his memo to two key individuals in Washington with whom we had worked on issues of arms control and treaty verification, namely Victor Alessi, Director of the Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the Department of Energy (DOE), and Bob Summers in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, as well as to a few other contacts in Washington.

W. Dunlop, A Proposal to Reduce the Possibility That Soviet Weapon Scientists Will Accelerate the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 11/12/1991

February 1992

In the Conversation with Sig Hecker (Vol. I, Chapter 2, Lab Directors Exchange Visits), the story touches on a protocol of potential cooperation that the Russian and American lab directors hammered out while in Snezhinsk during a long afternoon session in the office of Academician Boris Litvinov “under the watchful eyes of portraits of Lenin and Kurchatov.” It was agreed that each side would take the proposal back to their respective governments. On the way back, Hecker and Nuckolls stopped in Moscow and received positive reaction to the protocol from Moscow officials, including Viktor Mikhailov, who had just started his tenure as Minister of Atomic Energy (Minatom).

Proposals of the Nuclear Weapons Institutes of the Russian Federation, VNIIEF and VNIITF, and the U.S. National Laboratories, LANL and LLNL, for collaboration in the fields of surety, reduction and nonproliferation of the nuclear weapons, and scientific research. Feb. 29, 1992

March 1992

Hecker and Nuckolls decided to make a stop in Washington DC to brief Secretary of Energy Watkins. On the plane from Moscow to Washington, Hecker condensed his copious notes and observations made during the visit into a summary that was presented to Secretary Watkins. Stamped “In Confidence” at the time, the presentation is no longer so. The message of the presentation was emphatic: “The Russian Institutes placed collaboration with the US nuclear weapons labs at the top of their their list of what the US can do to help them out.” It also noted, “They welcomed and embraced us with surprising warmth and trust.”

Summary of the U.S. and Russian Nuclear Design Labs Exchange Visit, February 1992. Presentation to Admiral James D. Watkins, March 2, 1992

April 1992

Washington was cautious but at the same time impressed by undeniable advantages of direct interactions between nuclear weapons professionals. To provide a space for the engagement to grow, Vic Alessi at DOE and Bob Gallucci at State Department developed rules of engagement for the cooperation that got the US labs through the interagency approval process. As Hecker writes, The rules were quite sensible and gave us sufficient leeway to proceed with the Russian laboratories.

Laboratory to Laboratory discussions. Purpose, Criteria, Ground Rules

May 1992

DOE encouraged the labs to continue to engage with the Russians to further plan “lab-to-lab” interactions, as they were called. A delegation that consisted of Dunlop, Andre Kusubov, John Holzrichter from LLNL; Steve Younger, John Shaner, and Jim Shipley from LANL; and Tom Hunter and Paul Stokes from Sandia traveled in the end of May 1992 to Moscow to meet with their Russian counterparts. The trip was coordinated with Minatom. As Dunlop writes, “It took a bit of discussion but we were finally able to outline a set of topics that were mutually acceptable for joint work. We then discussed how we would conduct our activities. Vic Alessi encouraged us to do whatever was necessary to begin cooperation.” The protocol of the May meeting listed specific areas of interest and named “liaison officers” at each institution to carry the plans forward. Joint workshops and experiments followed soon and in rapid succession.

The record of the meeting of the representatives of LANL, LLNL, and SNL, and the representatives of the national nuclear weapons centers of Russia: Arzamas-16 and Chelyabinsk-70 on possible areas of collaboration regarding conversion activities. Moscow. May 28-29, 1992


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