An experiment in execution at the BEEF testing facility on the NNSS grounds.

Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF)

An experiment in execution at the BEEF testing facility on the NNSS grounds.

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Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF)

A sign depicts a bull walking toward the direction of the BEEF testing facility.
The BEEF sign outside the testing facility.

The Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF) is a hydrodynamic testing facility at the NNSS. BEEF provides data, through explosive experiments to support the Stockpile Stewardship Program, along with a variety of new experimental programs that expand the nation’s non-nuclear experiment capabilities. In
addition, the Baker Site Facility at BEEF is used to receive, store and assemble explosive test articles.


When the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Site 300 facility in California was no longer permitted to perform large, high-explosive experiments due to community encroachment, a new site had to be identified. What LLNL found at the NNSS was ideally configured: two earth-covered concrete bunkers reinforced with two feet of steel, a structure originally built in the 1950s to monitor atmospheric tests at Yucca Flat. In 1994, LLNL moved its high-explosive experiments to the NNSS and BEEF was established.

BEEF is Born

The 10-acre fenced compound features a control bunker, a camera bunker, a firing pad and associated control and diagnostic systems. Scientists at the facility conduct
conventional high-explosive experiments – while safely operating from the control
bunker – using a test bed that provides sophisticated diagnostics, such as high-speed optics and X-ray radiography on the firing pad.

To certify the safety of the firing pad, scientists conducted “Popover” in 1995: a series of tests involving explosives up to 7,800 pounds, which were detonated 27 feet from the bunker’s buried outer wall.

Pushing the Knowledge Boundary

BEEF plays a significant role in accumulating data to support the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Program. Scientists conduct physics experiments using high explosives and pulsed laser power to study and investigate impacted materials as they are merged together by the detonations. The data collected supports shock physics, which is the study of how condensed matter responds to extreme pressures and temperatures.

As with other NNSS experiment programs, BEEF scientists push the shock physics knowledge boundary. By conducting open-air explosive experiments with hazardous materials, pressure-testing containment vessels to ensure their structural integrity, and testing weapon components, scientists are preparing for future stewardship missions.