Hecker to be featured in Domenici documentary

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By John Severance

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Sig Hecker will be featured in a documentary about Pete Domenici to air this fall.


A couple of weeks ago, an Albuquerque-based TV producer Chris Schueler interviewed Hecker and they discussed a number of topics.

“We talked about Domenici’s support for LANL, how he was great at gathering information, how he championed several LANL initiatives and really helped the country understand the lab’s importance to our nation,” Schueler said Wednesday, a day before he was heading overseas to shoot another documentary.

“Also we talked a bit about the breakup of the Soviet Union and how dangerous a time that was in terms of scientists and materials leaving that country and how Dr. Hecker and Domenici worked together to help both stay in Russia to the betterment and safety of the U.S.”

The name of the documentary is “DOMENICI” and it chronicles the career of New Mexico’s longest serving United States Senator through the words of former staff members, Congressional colleagues, friends and family.

Schueler said the project highlights Domenici’s achievements with the federal budget, energy policy, national defense and non-proliferation as well as his work as a champion for individuals suffering from mental illness. Additionally, the project preserves the memories of New Mexicans whose lives were profoundly changed by Domenici’s  dedication to improving the economy, education and environment of his diverse home state.

The documentary will be an
integral part of the Pete V. Domenici Archives at New Mexico State and the project will serve as background for the living legacy of Domenici in yearly Public Policy Conferences to raise awareness and spark discussion of some of our country’s most challenging problems.

Hecker, a metallurgist, is credited with resolving a long-standing controversy involving the stability of certain structures (or phases) in plutonium alloys near equilibrium that arose from significant discrepancies between U.S. and former Soviet research on plutonium metallurgy.

He also contributed to the understanding of plutonium aging, which is of critical importance in assessing the reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

In addition, Hecker, who currently works at Stanford, was one of the principal architects of the science-based stockpile stewardship approach, which is still in use today to certify the safety and reliability of America’s nuclear deterrent. 

 During the latter part of his tenure at LANL, where he was based until 2005, Hecker was a pioneer in global nuclear nonproliferation and threat reduction, establishing collaborative research and mutual cooperation with the nuclear weapons laboratories in Russia and other former Soviet Republics.