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Don't hedge your bets on JASPER
Not all the action in southern Nevada takes place in Las Vegas .
Sixty miles away at NNSA's Nevada Test Site, the JASPER team is on a roll. The team, from DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has staged 31 consecutive successful shots between March 19, 2001 and July 29, 2004 . This includes a string of nine fully contained plutonium shots, all of which paid out valuable data and proved to be scientific winners.
JASPER, an acronym for Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research, is a nearly 100-foot, two-stage gas gun within Area 27 at NTS. It's also an important experimental technique to determine the properties of materials at high temperatures, pressures, and strain rates by shocking the material, and measuring its response.
JASPER can fire small projectiles at velocities of up to eight kilometers (five miles) per second. That's nearly 18,000 miles per hour or more than 24 times the speed of sound. When a tantalum projectile strikes a plutonium target at those speeds, the impact produces a high-pressure shock wave that passes through the target in a fraction of a microsecond. During this extremely brief period, diagnostic equipment measures the properties of the shocked plutonium inside the target.
These shock-physics experiments complement the on-going subcritical experiment program currently at NTS. In the absence of full-scale nuclear testing, JASPER's role in Science Based Stockpile Stewardship is to help assess the aging of nuclear weapon components, to verify that aging weapons can perform as designed.
Currently, the $3.5M JASPER facility and infrastructure are capable of executing about 24 experiments per year, costing about $6 million annually over a ten-year life. That's approximately $250K per shot; plus variable Pu costs that typically run ~$100K per target. While the Livermore Lab operates JASPER, the gun provides multi-laboratory experimental use.Color animation showing how the JASPER gun works appears at: http://www-eng.llnl.gov/eng_llnl/02_gifsjpegs/Jasper_1-13.mov
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