Control of the U.S. Nuclear Complex

(Adopted by Council on May 01, 2009)

The American Physical Society understands that there may be economies and synergies that would be realized in moving the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) and its associated laboratories from the Department of Energy to another agency, such as the Department of Defense, or making it a stand-alone executive agency reporting to the President. As physicists, we believe that any such move should take into consideration several issues of significance to the competitiveness of U.S. basic science and technology. These are:  

  1. NNSA programs constitute an essential component of the basic and applied physics research portfolio of the United States. Areas such as high energy density physics, nuclear physics and chemistry, condensed matter physics, plasma physics, atmospheric physics and climatology, accelerator and laser technology, and high-speed computing benefit enormously from the exceptional quality of research conducted under NNSA sponsorship, and particularly at the NNSA laboratories. This is a contribution that, we believe, must be preserved if the U.S. is to remain competitive in these and other fields. 
  2. The crucial role NNSA laboratories have played in the development of safe civilian nuclear energy systems cannot be overestimated. They also play a pivotal role in the development of instrumentation and processes for safeguarding civilian nuclear energy facilities so that they cannot be diverted to military use without detection. These functions cannot be carried out by other institutions in the U.S. without significant expenditures. Even then, the loss of the expertise housed within the NNSA laboratory complex could be debilitating to future efforts. 
  3. The NNSA national laboratories and NNSA-supported university laboratories are home to several unique facilities that are used by physicists from universities around the country. These facilities include high-powered lasers and pulsed power machines for high energy density physics and inertial fusion, intense beam accelerators, nanoscale science and applied superconductivity facilities, and supercomputers used to simulate and visualize complex physical systems. We believe it is imperative that these facilities remain available for unclassified research by our nation's best university based scientists. 
  4. NNSA programs in basic and applied physics and their associated technologies are tightly related with complementary programs in other parts of the Department of Energy. Taken together these activities are vital parts of the DOE's exploration of advanced energy science and technology.

The American Physical Society urges that these functions of NNSA programs and laboratories be preserved in any future configuration the Agency might assume.