Senate Appropriators Provide No Construction Funding for National Ignition Facility

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Publication date: 
28 June 2005

The Bush Administration has encountered considerable difficulty in securing funding for several nuclear weapons program initiatives last year ( and this year. As previously reported, House appropriators continued their opposition to funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, a modern pit facility, and enhanced test readiness in H.R. 2419, the FY 2006 Energy and Water Development bill (see The Senate Appropriations Committee took a different approach, providing the requested funding for the pit facility and test site readiness and had a generally more favorable treatment of RNEP (see

Reversing these roles, the two appropriations committees have opposite views regarding the National Ignition Facility which would produce temperatures and densities consistent with a nuclear explosion. In February, the Bush Administration requested $460.4 million for Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High Yield Campaign, a 14.1% or $75.5 million reduction from current year funding of $535.9 million. Within this request, the $141.9 million construction funding request for NIF was, according to a DOE budget document, "consistent with the approved project baseline." The document states that "FY 2006 realigns funding priorities to provide support for the NIF construction and the demonstration program necessary to meet the ignition goal." The request included reduced funding for the High-Energy Petawatt Laser Development, while providing for construction of the OMEGA Extended Performance laser project at the University of Rochester.

The House Appropriations Committee bill disagreed with the Administration's requested funding reduction in the overall program by providing an additional $5.5 million to current year funding, bringing the House number up to $541.4 million. As detailed in FYI #73 ( ), House Appropriators were supportive of NIF, saying in very clear language: "The Committee continues to view ignition demonstration as the primary benchmark for success in this program. The Committee commends the Department's effort to projectize the ICF program . . . ." The ICF section ended by stating, "The Committee recommendation provides $141,913,000 for construction of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the same as the budget request."

The recently-released Senate Appropriations Committee report (109-84; see took a completely opposite approach to construction funding for NIF (project 96-D-111), stating, "The Committee directs that no funds shall be expended for this project." (See second-to-last paragraph below.) The report explains this action, and funding recommendations on related programs, as follows:

"Secondary Assessment Technologies- The Committee recommends $77,332,000, an increase of $16,000,000. This program plays a critical role in developing the Advanced Scientific Computing effort to validate experimental data in modeling the yield performance of our nuclear systems and the impact of aging of materials. This program supports hydrodynamic and high-energy-density experiments.

"As a result of NNSA's [National Nuclear Security Administration] decision to focus on construction of the National Ignition Facility [NIF] rather than focus on stockpile research there will be an increased reliance on the Z facility at Sandia and the Omega laser at the University of Rochester to support critical R&D efforts. As such, the Committee directs the NNSA to support additional experiments on Z machine and Omega laser using the increase in funding. Failure to provide adequate funding would prevent the labs from meeting the necessary campaign milestones.

"Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield

"The Committee recommends $314,023,000, a reduction of $4,482,000 from the budget request for the Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaign. This allocation restores $61,000,000 in funding to the Support of Stockpile and Inertial Fusion Technology program that was cut from the budget request.

"National Ignition Facility [NIF]- The Committee is disappointed in the long-term funding outlook for Weapons Activities contained in the fiscal year 2006 FYNSP. Compared to the budget request in fiscal year 2005, Weapons Activities funding is reduced by $3,000,000,000 over the next 5 years. This decline is likely to have significant programmatic impacts and drastically curtail NNSA's scientific capabilities. It is difficult to conceive of a single program not being severely impacted, including NIF, as a result of the declining budget. The Committee is cognizant that the modest funding reduction of $25,000,000 in fiscal year 2005 to the NIF program forced NNSA managers to rebaseline the entire project. As a result of the rebaselining effort, the NNSA has made the decision to support the NIF construction effort at the expense of the Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaigns, putting in jeopardy critical high energy stewardship research at Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. The fiscal year 2006 budget cuts experimental programs that are essential in obtaining scientific data for ASC codes. The budget proposes the elimination of the Inertial Fusion Technology program that supported research on the Z machine and High Average Power Laser program. Currently, NIF is able to operate four beamlines, making NIF the most powerful laser in the world.

"The NNSA has not completed the rebaselining of the NIF program, and the Committee directs that no funds be expended on project 96-D-111 [National Ignition Facility, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory] in order to focus on supporting a comprehensive stewardship program.

"Ignition- The Committee recommends $68,800,000 to support experiments at Inertial Confinement facilities to demonstrate the principles of thermonuclear fusion. Sufficient funding is provided to support computer simulation, target fabrication, and target design calculation.

"Support for Other Stockpile Programs- In order to avoid drastic cuts to the ICF program, the Committee recommends restoring funding to $41,000,000 to perform experiments on the Z-machine to validate computer models as well as experiments on OMEGA at the University of Rochester, NY. This is an increase of $31,128,000 above the budget request.

"NIF Diagnostics, Cryogenics and Experimental Support- The Committee provides $30,000,000. It is clear from recent advances in target research that targets may hold the key to significant increases in efficiency. Targets with cryogenic fuel, composite ablators, foams, double shells and advanced hohlraum designs can compensate for limitation for both indirect and direct target concepts. The Committee directs the Department to provide $10,000,000 from within available funds to accelerate development of targets to support experiments on NIF, OMEGA and Z-machine.

"Pulsed Power Inertial Confinement Fusion- The Committee's recommendation provides $10,900,000, a $910,000 increase over the budget request for pulsed power ICF to assess Z pinches as drivers for ignition and high yield fusion.

"University Grants/Other ICF Support- The Committee provides $7,700,000 for research assistance in high energy density science, a level consistent with fiscal year 2005.

"The Committee recommendation includes $5,000,000 to Nevada Terawatt Facility. Within the funds provided, $3,000,000 is for research into strongly magnetized highly density energy matter and $2,000,000 is for construction of the high energy, short-pulse laser system.

"Facility Operations and Target Production- The Committee provides $54,623,000 as requested to support operations on OMEGA and Z-machine. Funds will support target production, engineering support, and maintenance.

"Inertial Fusion Technology- The Committee is disappointed that the budget completely eliminated funding with this account. As such the Committee has restored the funding to $41,000,000 and provides $6,000,000 to prepare Z-machine to support extended operations.

"NIF Demonstration- The Committee recommends $50,000,000 to support the NIF Demonstration program. The committee directs the NNSA to use this funding to support Stockpile Stewardship responsibilities necessary for closeout costs or other impacts as a result of the halt in construction and installation.

"High Energy Petawatt Laser Development- The Committee strongly supports the OMEGA petawatt laser and provides $10,000,000 an increase of $7,000,000 above the request. The funding supports the development and testing of two short pulsed laser beams to support the existing capabilities at OMEGA in Rochester, New York. The Committee recommendation includes an additional $7,000,000 for university grants and other support. Of this amount, $3,000,000 is provided for continued development of petawatt laser at the University of Texas at Austin; $2,000,000 is provided to the University of Nevada, Reno to continue its collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories on highly diagnosed studies of exploding wire arrays and implosion dynamics. The Committee provides $2,000,000 to Sandia National Laboratories for Z-Petawatt Consortium experiments using the Sandia Z-Beamlet and Z-Petawatt lasers.

"Construction--Project 96-D-111- The Committee directs that no funds shall be expended for this project.

"The Committee directs the NNSA to continue working with the Office of Science and the NSF on interagency coordination and support of high energy density physics and high intensity laser science. The Committee recommends that the Department form a High Energy Density Physics Advisory Committee, drawn from the scientific and technical community, to assist in this effort. The Committee further directs the Department to provide to the Committee a plan for funding and managing non-defense high energy density physics research and facilities development by March 1, 2006."

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