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LOCAL News :: Peace & War

UC Manages Armageddon

The Nation's Nuclear Weapons Laboratories and the University of California.
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History of the Labs


model example of military university collaborative research is the inception,

design, and creation of the atomic bomb. Conceived and developed by University

of California, the creation of the most deadly device ever made was a product

of research funded by the military and conducted by an elite group of Americas

university scientists, professors and graduate students.


the Los Alamos Laboratory opened its doors in 1943, every single nuclear weapon

built for the United States arsenal was designed at a University of California

managed weapons laboratory. The history of the development of Los Alamos and

the second National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore laid the foundation for the

last fifty years of military research and development conducted on Americas

college campuses.


the spring of 1942, Robert Oppenheimer, later dubbed the father of the

atomic bomb, was asked by University of Chicago physicist Arthur Holly

Compton to work with him on studying the feasiblity of producing a nuclear

weapon. With studies under way on the manufacture of Plutonium and Uranium,

both scientists eagerly researched ways in which a superbomb could be

created. In June of that same year, Oppenheimer organized a summer study

at his university, UC Berkeley. Attendees included Compton from the Metallurgical

Laboratory at the University of Chicago, graduate student Robert Serber

of the University of Illinois, and several physics theorists including

Edward Teller. The June 1942 meeting at UCB provided the theoretical basis

for the design of the atomic bomb, which was to become the principal task

at Los Alamos during the war.


discovery that the production of a nuclear bomb was possible, the scientists

still had questions they need answered, instruments necessary for production,

and a full-time staff consisting of Americas most advanced scientists, many

of whom were prestigious faculty of some of the nations public research institutions.

The LANLs website details the need for a laboratory dedicated to nuclear research:

By September 1942, the difficulties involved with conducting preliminary studies

on nuclear weapons at universities scattered throughout the country indicated

the need for a laboratory dedicated solely to that purpose.(1)

Theoretical studies were well underway up until this point, but a laboratory

dedicated to production, research, design, and testing was soon underway, under

command of General Leslie Groves, who was deputy to the chief of construction

for the Army Corps of Engineers during construction of the Pentagon.

n 1943 construction on the Los Alamos National Laboratory was completed. Los

Alamos in New Mexico was chosen by Oppenheimer and Groves because of its isolated

location (it had to be at least 200 miles from any ocean or national boundary),

mild climate, and because Canyons surrounding the site could be used for explosives

tests.1 The Office of Scientific Research and Development provided funding,

and the small town of Los Alamos was forcefully evacuated under military command

in February 1943. Among the crew of 450 scientists and technicians to immediately

move into Los Alamos were Ernest Lawrence, founder of both the UC Berkeley and

MIT Radiation Laboratories, and whom the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory would

later be named, as well as scientists from Stanford, Purdue, Columbia, University

of Illinois, and University of Rochester. The scientists saw their new lab not

as a military institution, but, instead, it was to become an outpost of academia.(1)


University of California Signs a Contract

On January 23, 1943 the Office of Scientific Research (OSRD) and Development

issued a preliminary letter to the University of California Regents announcing

certain investigations to be directed by Dr. J. R. Oppenheimer at the

Los Alamos Labs. Contracts between the UC and the OSRD had been conducted

in similar fashion before, for institutoins such as the UC Radiation Laboratory.

Robert M. Underhill, the secretary of the Regents of the University of

California, understood that the contract would be similar to the other

OSRD contracts at Berkeley and, on that basis, agreed with UC President

Robert Gordon Sproul to accept the letter of intent on Feb. 10, 1943.(1)


Manhattan District of the Corps of Engineers (MED), taking over work on

production of the Laboratory from the OSRD, sealed the deal on April 15,

1943 when the University of California Regents signed a contract to manage

the Labs, a contract that has remained intact for six decades. General

Groves was intent on a military takeover of the institution down the road,

but many scientists were vigorously supportive of University management

for credibility and access to top scientists. At least one scientist,

the head of the physics division at Los Alamos issued a letter of resignation

that would be effective upon the transition of the labs from the UC to

the military.


the UC Regents upon signing the contract were unaware of the project to build

a nuclear bomb at the Los Alamos site. Not until after the war, after the bombs

had been used to kill and maim millions of Japanese civilians, did the University

really become aware of what it was managing. Following the war, a weak attempt

was made to sever ties with the labs, but it was never accomplished. Today,

the University of California takes a proud stance on its management of the labs,

calling it a public service to the nation.(2)


Atomic Energy Commission, created in 1947, was formed to oversee nuclear weapons

research, development, production, and testing; production of plutonium and

weapons grade uranium; milling and refining of uranium ore; biomedical research

into the effects of radiation and nuclear weapons; basic nuclear research in

fields such as chemistry, physics, and metallurgy; development of nuclear reactors;

and promotion of a civilian nuclear power industry.3 Since its inception, which

was a direct result of the creation of the national nuclear laboratories, the

AEC has been responsible for funding and oversight of the management of the

labs by the UC. In 1975, the AEC became a part of the Department of Energy,

with whom the UC is now contracted in the management of both LANL and LLNL.


1952 UC founded the second national weapons laboratory, Lawrence Livermore located

in the East Bay, transferring many research scientists from the UC Berkeley

Radiation Laboratory for increased work on nuclear weapons. It was believed

that the creation of a second laboratory would instigate a rivalry between scientists

at both labs, creating an atmosphere of competition that would spur technological

discoveries, and would fuel a US advantage in the arms race.


and LLNL Today


the three laboratories (including Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) have a combined

UC workforce of 18,000 and operate on federally financed budgets totaling nearly

$4 billion.2 Along with nuclear weapons research, LANL and LLNL conduct civilian

studies as well, such as energy, space, and medical research. The vast amount

of funding, however, given by the Department of Energy to the UC for managment

of the labs is used for weapons research. In 2002, LANL recieved 1.2 billion

dollars for research and development of nuclear weapons, which was 80% of its

entire DOE funding for that year.(5)


budget for 2004 from the DOE for total weapons activities will be 6.4 billion

dollars, an increase of 9% from 2003. 7 This is 30% of the entire annual DOE

budget of $21 billion. The $6.4 billion is distributed by the semiautonomous

National Nuclear Security Administration, primarily to the three national nuclear

labs in the United States: LANL, LLNL, and Sandia National Laboratory in New

Mexico which is managed by the Lockheed Martin Corporation. The Los Alamos Laboratory

will recieve 1.3 billion dollars for weapons research, Lawrence Livermore will

receive 1.2 billion. (6) That means that this

year, of the $4 billion dollar combined budget the University of California

manages for the labs, $2.5 billion, or 63% will be used for nuclear weapons


The $2.5 billion is spent on various nuclear weapons programs, including the

Stockpile Stewardship Program, which provides for upgrades of every nuclear

weapon the US has, and the development of new nuclear weapons, under the guise

of stabilizing an already existing arsenal of weaponry. The goal of the SSP

is to enhance the capabilities of the US nuclear weapons stockpile. In that

pursuit, NNSA is modifying, altering, refurbishing, performing life extensions

on, and replacing life components in all of the weapons in the stockpile.6

Though a huge portion of the DOEs budget is devoted to these weapons improvement

programs, the budget contains very little information about them.


being researched by University of California employees is the Robust Nuclear

Earth Penetrator, with a $45 million budget over three years for design and

theoretical framework. Construction of the RNEP is set to begin in the spring

or summer of 2003 at LANL, and it will be the first new nuclear weapon to be

added to the US arsenal since 1989. It has been touted as a more useable nuclear

weapon, its objective to burrow hundreds of feet below the ground before detonation

in a bunker-busting technique. Not only does preliminary research prove the

RNEP ineffective, but it shows that if used in an urban setting, the radiation

emitted, though underground, would be enough to kill 50,000 people in the first

24 hours. Bush Administration rhetoric has been heavily saturated with threats

of first-strike nuclear use, and the development of a new nuclear weapon designed

for battlefield use has disastrous consequences in the international arms control



University of California is responsible for environmental destruction through

the development of these weapons. 47,500 barrels of toxic waste from the UC

Lawrence Livermore Lab has been dumped off the coast of San Franciscos Farrellon

Islands, the largest fishery on the west coast. The University also cheats local

schools out of much needed tax revenue. Both LANL and LLNL pay no state taxes.

In New Mexico, LANL would pay an estimated 60 million dollars in state tax,

half of which would go to the educational system, however their work is considered

nonprofit and educational by virtue of the fact that it is managed by the

University of California.(7)


research of weapons of mass destruction including the RNEP, the management of

the Stockpile Stewardship Program, and the disposal of nuclear waste, are all

fundamental responsibilities of the University of California as lab managers.

Under the guise of fundamental scientific research, backed by one of the nations

most respected institutes of higher learning, laboratory scientists and bureaucrats

are able to continue their legacy of building weapons of mass destruction by

abusing the reputation of this university, its faculty, and its students.


and the Labs


at the labs is strictly classified, which goes against university principals

of academic research and peer review. The laboratories fund research projects

for professors at every UC campus, and there are several collaborative

research projects going on between faculty at UCSC and researchers at

the labs. In the seventies several social science professors became aware

of weapons research conducted on their campuses, whose laboratories were

housing weapons grade plutonium and other heavily dangerous instruments

for development of weapons of mass destruction. Today, most of the classified

nuclear research is therefore conducted off university campuses, however

that does not mean that research funded by the labs at UC campuses is

not militarily relevant.


Earth Sciences department recieves funding from the Los Alamos Laboratory

for studies in seismic wave activities that help scientists discover when

and where nuclear weapons are being tested around the world. The work

of the professor contributes to the International Monitoring System for

verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the

Radionuclide Laboratory in Los Alamos. By itself, this project may seem

a responsible one but in conjunction with the Bush administrations failure

to ratify the Comprehnsive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), it allows the

US a dont do as I do, do as I say rhetoric.

In 1984, three professors from UCSC decided to

take a stand against the UC management of the weapons labs. BIll Matthews

(Astronomy), Barry McLaughlin (Psychology), and Dane Archer (Sociology)

set out to sever the ties between the UC and Los Alamos and Livermore

labs by proposing a resolution at the Faculty Senate meeting, which

passed almost unanimously.


that year, the resolution was picked up by the Academic Senates on every

other UC campus--and ALL the campuses voted to sever ties. Unfortunately,

this did not impress the regents who extended the contract which is

again up for renewal in 2005.


Modeling and Imaging Laboratory (MILAB) in the Geophysics department at UCSC

is also funded by Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as the Office of Naval

Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and many petroleum corporations

including BHP, Shell, Chevron, Conoco, and Unocal. MILAB develops theory and

methods for the modeling and imaging of complex environments, assisting American

corporations in the extraction of valuable natural resources available in parts

of the world outside of the United States. The UCSC MILAB website states their

intent clearly:

The Earth is recognized to have hierarchical, multi-scale heterogeneities,

especially in economically, environmentally and/or scientifically interesting

areas. As new oil and gas reserves become more difficult to find and expensive

to drill for, there is increased interest in pinpointing their potential beneath

increasingly complicated structures.(


other interest would the US military, the weapons laboratory, and these oil

conglomerates have in the geography of these environments if they werent planning

on invading them?


Future of the UC Contract


the University of California played such an integral role in the formation of

the partnership between Americas institutes of higher learning and the military,

it is now the responsibility of the UC to disarm our society by disarming our

universities. The creation of the nuclear weapons laboratories, and the continued

management of these factories of destruction by the University of California

sets a precedent to other institutions, faculty, and most importantly the impressionable

student body that military science is not only important, but somehow ethical

and necessary.


note: By the time this publication goes to print, the UC may have lost the contract

to manage the Los Alamos weapons lab. This does not invalidate the struggle

to abolish nuclear weapons. In fact the possible transfer of the labs to another

university or private corporation represents the further strengthening of the

nuclear weapons complex and the destruction that they produce. The need to rid

the world of the nuclear threat has never been so urgent.


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