The History of the Lab-to-Lab
30 Years Ago, Soviet and American Flags Flying Side by Side in the Nevada Test Site
On May 30, 1988, the US Secretary of State George Shultz and the Soviet Foreign Minister Edward Shevardnadze met in Moscow to sign important arms control documents. One of them was Agreement on Joint Verification Experiment (JVE), a unique arrangement to conduct two nuclear test explosions, one in the American and another in the Soviet test site. For each test explosion, both the US and the Soviet teams were to be present on the ground with their sets of monitoring equipment. The experiment was designed to compare the methods for monitoring the size of a nuclear explosion.
The story begins in February 1992, barely two months after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when the Russian nuclear weapons laboratory directors visited Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Two weeks later, LLNL Director John Nuckolls and LANL Director Siegfried Hecker visited the Russian analogues to American labs, Russian Federal Nuclear Center- VNIIEF and Russian Federal Nuclear Center-VNIITF, in the formerly secret cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk.
In September next year, LANL and VNIIEF scientists conducted the first joint experiment using an explosive magnetic generator designed in Sarov. Dozens and hundreds joint endeavors followed suite.
More about lab-to-lab in a 15-min video (courtesy of CISAC)
With hundreds of nuclear weapons professionals participating on each side, the US-Russian lab-to-lab interactions made impact not only on the issues tackled but also on the minds and hearts of the people involved. This side of the lab-to-lab record goes all the way from poignant, perceptive reflections captured in the poetry by Brodie Anderson, Walt Atchison and Bob Thomsen to wryly funny ballads depicting the hardships of the unpredictable Russian logistics by Patricia Newman to humorous observations about surpising discoveries of the American everyday life by Georgii Skripka and Andrey Sviridov to the testimony of the value of open-minded authentic interactions in the stories of Paul White.