Sandia National Laboratories' California site turns 60

Lab embarking on another decade as Tri-Valley center of innovation, engineering and employment

Sandia National Laboratories' California site is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month, continuing its major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

The site, which started on March 8, 1956, with a singular nuclear weapons mission, now supports all Albuquerque-based Sandia missions. Nuclear weapons account for nearly half of the California site's work, along with strong programs in homeland security, transportation energy, cyber security and chemical and biological defense.

"From the Cold War to today, we've been providing exceptional service in the national interest in Livermore for six decades," Marianne Walck, vice president of Sandia's California site and the energy and climate program, told employees at a 60th anniversary event. In addition to the employee event, the site will host a 60th anniversary community event at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.

The California site has changed significantly over the past six decades since it was first established by the Atomic Energy Commission to support projects for the University of California Radiation Laboratory, now the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Then it was largely devoted to weapons design and development projects, including the W47 warhead for the Polaris missile.

Environmental testing and systems studies were initiated, and the site obtained its first computer system to calculate flight trajectories. Since the mid-1950s, the California site has played a major role in ensuring the safety, security and effectiveness of the current nuclear weapons stockpile.

The 1970s were marked by the nation's first major energy crisis and the establishment of the Department of Energy. The Sandia California site quickly moved into energy alternatives and efficiency with programs in solar and combustion.

The Combustion Research Facility, which opened in 1980 to meet research needs, has greatly expanded fundamental knowledge of combustion processes and contributed to significant design innovations for diesel engines, pulse combustors for furnaces and pollution reduction methods. In fact, work in this operation has had a major impact on every engine on the road today. Just last month, Sandia showed off its algae raceway where it is testing fuels for the future -- fuels that could someday power our cars.

The California site also plays a leading role in research and development, supporting the Strategic Defense Initiative and changing the focus of the weapons program from designing new warheads to science-based stockpile stewardship and to maintaining and refurbishing existing warheads. The California site and the Livermore Lab were responsible for the first warhead Life Extension Program. Other stockpile weapons were maintained and retired weapons were dismantled and disposed of.

Most recently, the California site has been working with Tri-Valley research and emerging energy facilities to draw on its core science, technology and engineering capabilities to invent, develop, demonstrate and deploy homeland security systems that are now helping defend the nation. That includes establishing the Livermore Valley Open Campus, an innovation hub and novel venue for collaborations among experts from within and outside Sandia.

In further celebration of 60 years in the Tri-Valley, Sandia California will open a new building by year-end that will consolidate "front door" activities, house the site's human resources department and host the training center for students and new hires.

Plans for another new 86,000-square-foot building will provide additional space for engagement with industry and academia as the Livermore site embarks on another decade as a Tri-Valley center of innovation, engineering and employment.


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