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National Nuclear Science Week Day 5: NNSA Highlights Cutting-Edge Nuclear Science Facilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is committed to promoting excellence in nuclear science and attracting the next generation of nuclear security experts to the field. As part of that effort, NNSA is celebrating National Nuclear Science Week with five days of features on the NNSA website that showcase the innovations and opportunities in nuclear science.

On day five of Nuclear Science Week, NNSA is highlighting several of the resources and state-of-art-facilities throughout the nuclear security enterprise that are attracting the best and the brightest to the field.  From the world’s largest laser, to some of the world’s fastest computers, NNSA’s investment in nuclear security has provided the nation with some of its most exciting nuclear science research tools.  

“NNSA has built some of the world’s most advanced and exciting research facilities, which has helped ensure we can complete our mission, attracted the next generation of nuclear security professionals and provided the nation the tools to tackle a broad array of complex national challenges,” said Brig. Gen. Sandra Finan, Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application. “As we continue to turn a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise, we are committed to maintaining our leading role in pushing the boundaries of science and discovery.”

NNSA’s Nuclear Science Week 2011 website today features some of the nation’s most important and impressive nuclear science facilities.

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.

The Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories and the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility (DAHRT) located at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Z Machine, the world's largest and most powerful laboratory X-ray source, is capable of producing pressures greater than those at the center of the Earth.  DAHRT consists of two large x-ray machines that produce freeze-frame radiographs (high-powered X-ray images) of materials that implode at speeds greater than 10,000 miles an hour.

Through its Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program, NNSA has built some of the world’s fastest supercomputers.  Originally built to simulate the performance of nuclear weapons as part of NNSA’s stockpile stewardship program, these computers have also been used to bring products to market faster, track the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS, fight cancer, and predict the strength of hurricanes. In the process, NNSA has helped create entirely new fields of predictive sciences.

To see today’s Nuclear Science Week feature, visit

Video of Sandia's Z Machine:


Video of Advanced Simulation and Computing at Sandia National Laboratories:


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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 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.