The NNSA’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) surpassed a critical milestone in its efforts to meet one of modern science's greatest challenges: achieving fusion ignition and energy gain in a laboratory setting.
NIF's 192 lasers fired in perfect unison, delivering a record 1.875 million joules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to the facility's target chamber center. This historic laser shot involved a shaped pulse of energy 23 billionths of a second long that generated 411 trillion watts (TW) of peak power (1,000 times more than the United States uses at any instant in time).
The ultraviolet energy produced by NIF (after conversion from the original infrared laser pulse to the final ultraviolet light) was 2.03 MJ before passing through diagnostic instruments and other optics on the way to the target chamber. As a result, NIF is now the world's first 2 MJ ultraviolet laser, generating nearly 100 times more energy than any other laser in operation.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Operations Support Building (OSB) has achieved certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The OSB, which houses the new Target Alignment System and Final Optics Damage Inspection System alignment labs as well as optics and material handling labs and offices, is the fifth building at LLNL to be LEED-certified and the first in the National Ignition Facility and Photon Science Directorate.
LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies for improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction and other factors. The OSB achieved certification after receiving 21 of 25 submitted rating points.
The research and documentation phase started in March 2009 and was completed over the span of 13 months. Construction began in February 2010, and the certification process began in June 2011 and was completed in December 2011.
From February 27 to March 6, 2012, 24 experts from 12 countries participated in an international workshop on nuclear forensics hosted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. The workshop was sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS).
The workshop provided technical information and a hands-on learning environment for practitioners regarding the measurement of nuclear and other radioactive samples for forensics analysis, consistent with the guidelines in IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 2 “Nuclear Forensics Support.” The event attracted broad international interest; experts attended from Argentina, Brazil, China, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. Participants benefited from hands-on exercises as well as presentations by several U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, NIS, the IAEA, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, the European Union’s Institute for Transuranium Elements, the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment, and others.
Nuclear forensics is the popular term for the scientific characterization and analysis of nuclear or other radiological materials, which can provide critical information on the place of origin and process history of nuclear materials. Just as law enforcement officials analyze human fingerprints after a crime to determine “who did it,” the science of nuclear forensics allows experts to develop a highly accurate “nuclear fingerprint” to trace the origin of nuclear material—a valuable tool for combatting nuclear smuggling and ensuring that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes. Nuclear forensics investigations gather “evidence” by determining the material’s age, isotopic and mass ratios, impurity content, physical parameters, and other characteristics. When illicit nuclear trafficking occurs, experts can use nuclear forensics to pinpoint where the material came from—and then work with responsible officials to ensure the event is not repeated.
International cooperation in nuclear forensics is one of many ways in which NIS is working to implement U.S. commitments made at the Nuclear Security Summit convened by President Obama in April 2010. Progress on nuclear forensics and other efforts to secure nuclear materials will be reviewed at the highest levels at the next Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, on March 26–27, 2012.
High-gain nuclear fusion could be achieved in a preheated cylindrical container immersed in strong magnetic fields, according to a series of computer simulations performed at Sandia National Laboratories.
The simulations show the release of output energy that was, remarkably, many times greater than the energy fed into the container’s liner. The method appears to be 50 times more efficient than using X-rays to drive implosions of targeted materials to create fusion conditions.
Such fusion eventually could produce reliable electricity from seawater, the most plentiful material on earth, rather than from the raw materials used by other methods: uranium, coal, oil, natural gas, sun or wind. In the simulations, the output calculated was 100 times that of a 60 million amperes (MA) input current. The output rose steeply as the current increased: 1,000 times input was achieved from an incoming pulse of 70 MA.