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Stockpile stewardship: the numbers are in

Certifying the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile is a complex and continuous process, demanding countless calculations. What has been counted quite exactly, though, is the number of physics experiments performed at NNSA’s various state-of-the-art facilities.

The NNSA Office of Inertial Confinement Fusion conducts high energy density physics experiments, which recreate the intense conditions of a thermonuclear reaction. This enables validation of the advanced theoretical models and codes used to characterize nuclear weapons performance.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory completed 408 high-energy experiments in fiscal year 2017.

The line between science fiction and science fact was recently blurred with the successful test of a plasma optic capable of combining 9 lasers into a single beam at the NIF.

NIF by the Numbers:

  • 192 laser beams focus on a target the size of a pencil eraser (6 mm)
  • 180 million degrees Fahrenheit
  • 100 billion times more pressure than Earth’s atmosphere
  • 10-story building the size of 3 football fields

The Z Pulsed Power facility (Z machine) at Sandia National Laboratories completed 142 high-energy experiments in fiscal year 2017.

A new revelation about the nature of black holes was recently illuminated through research done on the Z machine.

Z by the Numbers:

  • 1,000 times the power of a bolt of lightning in a shot
  • 20,000 faster than a bolt of lightning
  • 2 million joules of X-ray energy

The Omega Laser facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory of Laser Energetics completed 2,138 low-energy experiments in fiscal year 2017.

Omega continues to serve as an excellent recruiter of top talent for the NNSA and a leader in platform development.

Omega by the Numbers:

  • 60 laser beams focus on 1 millimeter target
  • 40,000 joules of energy in 1 billionth of a second
  • 10 meters tall and 100 meters long