U.S. Representatives Eric Swalwell (CA-15) and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) led a letter to President Barack Obama urging strong and sustained funding for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as he prepares his FY 2015 budget. The NIF is the world’s most powerful laser and the preeminent research tool in the world for inertial confinement fusion research. NIF is conducting research key for stockpile stewardship and developing clean, safe, and plentiful fusion energy.
“NIF is closer than ever to ignition and carbon free energy,” said Congressman Swalwell. “In recent weeks NIF has achieved several record-breaking shots where more energy was released from the experiment than put into it. As we reach these milestones, I trust the President will recognize in his budget the need to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to this research, rather than retreating and ceding this scientific field to China and Russia.”
“The physics world is buzzing about NIF’s groundbreaking results,” Congresswoman Lofgren said. “The NIF is the most powerful and advanced facility of this kind in the world. As they achieve new milestones, this isn’t the time for us to take our foot of the pedal when the world is racing to be the first to achieve fusion ignition—we should be accelerating our effort.”
Unlike current nuclear fission power, which produces radioactive waste, fusion harnesses the same reaction powering the sun and other stars. The NIF recently delivered a fusion breakthrough when the energy generated through a fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy deposited into the fusion fuel.
By using lasers to trigger a fusion reaction in very small amounts of hydrogen fuel, fusion may ultimately promise a new clean, carbon dioxide-free energy source that could end our dependency on other power sources.
They were joined on the letter by Reps. Julia Brownley (CA-26), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), John Garamendi (CA-3), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Mike Honda (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Jim McDermott (WA-7), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Scott Peters (CA-52), Adam Schiff (CA-26), Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Mike Thompson (CA-5).
The text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our support for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) funded under the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaign (ICF). As you are preparing your fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget, we request that you include strong and sustained funding for the NIF and ICF activities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).
The NIF – a critical facility for NNSA, LLNL and the scientific stockpile stewardship program – is a credit to the continued strength of the U.S. scientific community. In the past ten years alone, the NIF has received 16 of R&D Magazine’s prestigious R&D 100 Awards including two in the last 12 months. In 2013, the National Research Council of the National Academies released the results of a two-year study emphasizing the importance of inertial fusion energy research and spotlighting the NIF as a critical research facility. It was named the Project Management Institute’s Project of the Year in 2010 in recognition of the tremendous scientific and engineering achievement building and operating the NIF represents and the partnership of government, industry, and academia that made it happen.
Just within the past few months, the NIF has recorded several record-breaking experimental shots. These newest results bring the experimental findings more closely in line with the theoretical models, highlighting a promising path forward for more groundbreaking high energy density physics. It is critical that we provide the resources necessary to continue this important work.
The ongoing work of LLNL and the groundbreaking research being done at the NIF continue to ensure that the U.S. can abide by our moratorium on nuclear testing while maintaining a secure stockpile. Research conducted at the NIF also helps bring us towards a new energy future as we come closer to unlocking the potential of fusion energy. To ensure the U.S. continues to lead, it is critical to build upon the substantial investments already made and provide the NIF with funding that is stable and sufficient to carry out its mission and continue to advance ICF research.
We ask that as you craft your budget, you will keep the role and importance of the NIF in mind. We look forward to working with you to maintain our nuclear stockpile, advance the frontiers of scientific discovery, and invest in the energy of the future through ICF research and development.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.