Washington, D.C. – National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Thomas D’Agostino congratulated the team at the National Ignition Facility for winning the prestigious Project of the Year Award from the Project Management Institute (PMI). Citing groundbreaking technical achievement and exemplary management, PMI recognized NIF as the year’s most innovative and successful project.
“NIF is an example of what the NNSA labs do best,” said Administrator D’Agostino. “We are bringing together the best minds in science, engineering and technology to solve some of the nation’s greatest challenges, and complete one of the largest and most complex projects in history. To be recognized by the Project Management Institute with such an important honor is recognition of the important and outstanding work being done by our contractors and federal oversight teams. I congratulate Dr. Miller, the entire team at Livermore, and our NIF program managers at NNSA for a job well done.”
Ed Moses, director of NIF, accepted the award Saturday during a special ceremony in Washington, DC to honor NIF as well as the other finalists.
“NIF is an engineering and physics marvel,” said Moses. “It could not have been done without the thousands of people who have been a part of this team. This award is a tribute to their hard work, their dedication and their innovation; and I am honored to accept it on their behalf.”
Located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NIF is the world’s largest and most energetic laser, focusing 192 beams on a capsule the size of a pencil eraser. Inside that capsule a fuel pellet, made from isotopes of hydrogen, is heated to temperatures hotter than the sun’s core, fusing the hydrogen atoms nuclei and producing more energy than the laser energy required to spark the reaction. The result is ignition – the same life force that powers the sun and the stars.
Built as part of NNSA’s stockpile stewardship program, NIF will be used to assure the safety and security of the nuclear weapons stockpile. Demonstrating ignition at NIF would also establish the scientific foundation for development of fusion energy and expand frontiers in astrophysics, materials science, medicine and basic science.
Each year PMI singles out three finalists from worldwide nominees to recognize the accomplishments of the projects and the involved project teams for superior performance and execution of exemplary project management. One is awarded “Project of the Year.” In addition to NIF, 2010 finalists included construction of the monumental Cowboys Stadium, the NFL’s superstructure in Dallas, and the Norton Brownsboro Hospital, a facility featuring the latest in healthcare technology, in Louisville, Ky.
NIF was honored as a facility “pushing beyond the state of the art,” bringing together scientists, engineers, construction workers and contractors, vendors, safety technicians, systems managers, administrators and much more to bring the $3.5 billion project together. NIF has been a partnership of governments, academia and industrial collaborators, including the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense and the French Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique.
Since NIF broke ground in 1997, more than 12,000 contracts were awarded to more than 8,000 vendor companies during project execution, representing $1.8 billion worth of procurements.
NIF is noted for its technology breakthroughs, which had to be invented in tandem with NIF’s construction. NIF scientists worked closely with optics vendors to make dramatic improvements in the manufacturing of precision large optics, including continuous-pour laser glass, rapid growth crystals and optical coatings. The NIF team also developed breakthroughs in pulsed-power electronics, innovative integrated computer control systems (requiring two million lines of code) and advanced manufacturing capabilities. These innovations resulted in dozens of awards from scientific societies around the world, among them the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the R&D 100s, the Federal Laboratory Consortium, Fusion Power Associates and more.
NIF construction was officially completed in March 2009, and the laser was dedicated in a special ceremony on May 29, 2009, 12 years to the date after breaking ground. Since that time NIF has undergone a carefully planned series of experiments to test all aspects of laser performance, target physics and diagnostics before beginning initial ignition experiments in September. Fusion ignition is expected in one to two years.
In January NIF became the first laser to break the one-megajoule barrier, delivering about 30 times more laser energy that any other group of lasers in the world.
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 in the nation's national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the 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.