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NNSA, Office of Science Issue Report on Basic Research Directions for User Science at the National Ignition Facility

November 08, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science today issued a report on the outcomes of a scientific workshop titled, “Basic Research Directions for User Science at the National Ignition Facility (NIF).”

The report identifies scientific challenges and research directions in laboratory astrophysics, nuclear physics, materials in extremes and planetary physics, and beam and plasma physics that NIF’s unique capabilities can address, when taken together with considerations of user science processes and capability gaps, defines a set of priority directions to meet these challenges on the timescale of a decade.

NIF is the world's largest and most energetic laser, which has the goal of achieving nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for the first time – in essence, creating a miniature star on Earth.

“The next decade holds bright promise for rapid progress in scientific discovery through the appropriate utilization and continued development of NIF,” said Don Cook, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs. “The outcome of the workshop supports the fact that NIF enables fundamental science investigations using unique extreme laboratory environmental conditions in addition to NIF’s primary role in preserving the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear stockpile without underground testing.”

“We’re proud of this cooperative effort with our colleagues in NNSA,” said Dr. William F. Brinkman, director of the DOE Office of Science. “This report, which draws on the insights of experts from a wide range of fields, represents an important first step toward identifying the unique scientific opportunities presented by NIF.”

The report is based on discussions at a scientific workshop attended by approximately 100 leading researchers earlier this year.

During the workshop, the current state of NIF as a facility and its operational experience as well as capabilities and plans for future diagnostics and targets were reviewed, as was the current state of science in key areas that NIF could potentially impact.

The report can be found here.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.