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When Peer Review Fails
The Roots of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) Debacle

Top of Report


How Did DOE's Quest For Ignition Culminate in the NIF?
More Attempts at Peer Review
Crafting a Committee to Endorse NIF
The Price of Arrogance: A Flawed Project Pushes Ahead
What to Do Now?


Since the disclosure in late August 1999 that senior officials of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had lied to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, and that he in turn had unwittingly provided false testimony to Congress regarding the status of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) Project, the publicly acknowledged cost to complete research, development and construction of the NIF Laser System has more than trebled, to an estimated $4.0 billion.

According to General Accounting Office (GAO), some of the apparent increase in cost can be accounted for by the DOE/Livermore practice of concealing NIF-related R&D funds in less visible budget categories. Since breaking ground on the project in June 1997, an "apples to apples" comparison shows that construction project costs have increased from $1.2 to $2.2 billion, and that NIF supporting R&D costs for the period 1995-2000, buried within DOE's overall budget for "Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities," have increased from $1 billion to $1.8 billion, yielding the new total acquisition cost of $4 billion. [4]

The scheduled completion date has slipped at least five years, to late 2008 or 2009. Three years ago, an ICF Program Review by the National Academy of Sciences concluded, "the NIF project is technologically and scientifically ready to proceed as planned." This finding was based in part on the fact that the NIF baseline design "uses a laser architecture selected to meet the required performance levels at acceptable cost while respecting the limits imposed by laser fluence damage." [5] However, over the last year additional technical reviews have reduced the operating level for avoiding damage to the NIF final optics by 60 %, from a fluence damage design threshold of 8 joules/cm2 to only 3 joules/cm2. This limit reduces the beam energy that can be delivered routinely to the target chamber to 635 kilojoules, [6] which amounts to only 35% of the project's promised "baseline" of 1.8 megajoules for the laser energy needed for ICF ignition experiments. [7]

Assuming the current ICF program operating cost of $226 million per year, [8] and that a facility as expensive as NIF will operate for 25 years, the total "life cycle" cost of NIF will be at least $10 billion, and in light of the new optics R&D requirements, probably more. Meanwhile the ostensible goal of igniting a fusion target is -- once again -- receding over the technological (and financial) horizon, as it has for the last 30 years. What are the roots of this latest debacle, and who should be held accountable?

The new fallback position of the NIF's defenders typically acknowledges major "management deficiencies" in the project, [9] and even the persistence of "serious challenges" requiring further R&D, [10] while asserting, "the underlying science of the NIF is sound." [11] Putting aside for a moment the vexing question of whether a "big science" machine well into the construction phase should still be plagued with numerous unresolved technology development issues, there is considerable evidence that both the science and technology underlying the NIF are not sound.

  • Substantial technical uncertainties persist regarding the feasibility of constructing and operating a NIF Laser System that meets Livermore's own nominal requirements for fusion ignition and even some non-ignition stockpile stewardship experiments;

  • The NIF Project lacks proven equipment for cooling, injecting, and diagnosing NIF ignition targets, as well as an approved baseline target design that both ignites in computer simulations and can be fabricated with known production techniques;

  • The NIF Project relies on computer modeling predictions of ignition generated by an ICF code that does not calculate ("postdict") the results of actual underground fusion capsule experiments, raising fundamental questions about the NIF Project's heavy reliance on computer modeling rather than experimental data to establish its performance specifications;

  • Roughly a factor of 100 separates the amount of X-ray energy (200 kilojoules) that prospectively would be absorbed by a NIF-scale capsule from the smallest amount that produced ignition and modest gain in the larger ICF capsule experiments conducted underground during the 1980's, leading to widespread and unresolved disputes in the weapons laboratory community over whether NIF, in view of the ignition experiments, has been designed to operate in the correct energy regime to achieve fusion.

The persistent unwillingness of the ICF and broader plasma and laser physics communities to acknowledge and systematically explore these issues, through careful and rigorous peer review, is perhaps the foremost contributor to the current project's difficulties. Indeed, had a sufficiently probing and objective peer review been conducted at any time before 1997, the present NIF project would have been deferred, on the grounds that it lacks a firm scientific and engineering basis on which to confidently project both laser system and fusion target performance.

This is not mere hindsight. The difficulties were clearly evident to outside observers, so much so that in the spring of 1997 the Natural Resources Defense Council, representing several dozen additional plaintiff organizations, filed suit seeking to delay the start of physical construction so that more probing reviews could be conducted. The record of DOE's ICF program, virtually since its inception, is littered with oversold and under-performing machines, unresolved fundamental scientific disputes, computer modeling predictions unsupported or later discredited by experimental results, and conflict-ridden review panels with little motivation to weigh seriously the merits of competing claims.

A brief tour of this history is instructive, as it establishes a context in which the sudden near-collapse of the high-flying NIF project is readily explained. Between 1978 and 1997, more than a dozen nominally independent reviews were conducted evaluating either DOE's ICF program as a whole or specific candidate "driver" technologies for achieving fusion in the laboratory. Three of the four most significant reviews were conducted by committees of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS): a 1986 committee chaired by Professor William Happer (of Princeton University), a 1990 committee chaired by Professor Steven Koonin (of the California Institute of Technology), and a 1996-97 committee, again chaired by Prof. Koonin. From December 1992 to November 1995, DOE maintained its own Inertial Confinement Fusion Advisory Committee (ICFAC) chaired by Professor Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Dean of the College of Engineering at UC at Santa Barbara.

How Did DOE's Quest For Ignition Culminate in the NIF?

NIF's emergence in the early 1990's as the sole candidate for a Laser Microfusion Facility resulted as much from the virtual implosion of the Los Alamos ICF effort as from any demonstration that Livermore's neodymium glass laser technology could deliver the needed increases in "driver" energy. Between 1976 and 1990, Los Alamos wasted on the order of $1 billion on a chaotic program that initially emphasized development of a large "multi-line" (i.e. multiple wavelength) CO2 laser (Antares) but then abruptly changed course, secretly siphoning funds from the Antares project in an ultimately abortive attempt to develop a short-wavelength krypton-fluoride (KrF) "target shooter" (Aurora) that could compete with Livermore's glass laser technology.

The 1989-1990 NAS Review of DOE's ICF Program was saved from an embarrassing endorsement of the flawed Aurora project by the unsolicited intervention of a contentious dissident LANL physicist, Leo Mascheroni, whose analyses of the "showstoppers" in the LANL KrF technology, and insistent objections to the premature termination of the Antares project, cost him first his job, and then his security clearance at the hands of a vindictive management. The NAS pocketed Mascheroni's critique of KrF-Aurora but never lifted a finger to help him regain his clearance and livelihood as an ICF scientist, even though a DOE Los Alamos Area Office report to the DOE Inspector General cleared Mascheroni of any wrongdoing, and concluded that he was the victim of "false derogatory information from LANL management." [12] Ironically, one of the managers involved in LANL's billion-dollar ICF debacle, John Browne, is now Director of LANL.

With LANL's ICF Program a technical shambles, the 1989-1990 NAS Review chaired by Prof. Koonin had little difficulty tilting toward Livermore, which had been building glass lasers with some success since 1974. Livermore physicist John Nuckolls (who later became LLNL Director in the late 1980's) had first predicted ignition in 1972 with one kilojoule (kJ) of energy, sparking construction of big lasers at both laboratories. When this prediction failed, the labs successively predicted ignition at 5 kJ, 10kJ, 100kJ, 200kJ, and finally 1.8 megajoules. They built a succession of lasers -- Argus, Shiva, Nova, and the NIF Beamlet at Livermore, and Gemini, Helios, Antares, and Aurora at Los Alamos -- with each machine's failure to perform as predicted justifying the construction of the next machine.

Livermore concentrated on the development of shorter wavelength glass lasers, while Los Alamos focused initially on longer wavelength CO2 lasers. However, when the advantage of short-wavelength lasers in laser-plasma interactions (coupling of laser energy to the target) was clearly established in the early 1980's by scientists at Ecole-Polytechnique, Livermore, and other laboratories, Los Alamos panicked and aborted its research program on long wavelength drivers in favor of the shorter-wavelength KrF-Aurora project.

Because Livermore's reputed success with the Nova Laser influenced the critical 1990 NAS Review that led directly to NIF, it warrants some elaboration here. Nova, which went into operation in 1984, was originally planned as a 20 beam, 200 kJ laser that Nuckolls had calculated could create the conditions for ignition. Both the short wavelength Nova and LANL's longer-wavelength multi-line Antares carbon-dioxide laser were sold to Congress as ignition lasers. After Nuckolls detected an error in his own calculations, an October 1979 review chaired by John Foster of TRW confirmed that there was no way Nova would reach ignition. A "deal" was worked out in which Livermore received the full funding -- $186 million -- that had been requested for the original 20-beam facility, but agreed to scale it back to a "science-oriented" 10-beam facility operating with frequency tripled (blue) light.

Livermore also agreed to drop its claim that Nova could ignite a target, a task that the lab was soon projecting would be within range of the next big machine -- Nova Upgrade/NIF. After Nova construction was under way, Livermore promised 50-70 kJ of laser light at the third harmonic, while LANL promised 100kJ with multiline Antares. In actual routine operation, however, even after extensive and expensive upgrades, Nova remained in the range of 20 -- 30 kilojoules, constrained by optical coating damage and nonlinear optical effects that were never overcome, and Antares was able to get at most 40kJ operating with two lines. [13] This may be contrasted with the 1.8 megajoule design requirement for NIF, which represents a huge 60-fold leap from Nova's beam energy after conversion to the shorter wavelength blue light.

Partly in response to this record of under-performing lasers and faulty code predictions of ignition, DOE conducted a secret series of underground nuclear tests in the period 1979-88 -- the so-called "Halite-Centurion" experiments -- to actually measure how much absorbed x-ray energy was required to ignite a fusion fuel capsule. The H/C program started in 1978 and produced ignition data by mid 1984, focused on the physics of the ignition capsule. LLNL ceased Halite experiments in 1987 and LANL stopped Centurion in 1988.

It can be deduced from the fragmentary information in the public domain about these experiments that targets designed to absorb less than about 20 MJ in the underground tests failed to achieve ignition (i.e. an energy gain of at least one). This fact leads some ICF experts to suggest that certain minimum capsule dimensions, wall thickness, material strengths, pulse lengths, and hence absorbed energies may be needed to minimize "hydrodynamic instabilities" (fluid turbulence) and thereby achieve the requisite degree of capsule compression and hot spot propagation into the surrounding fuel. While no one is yet sure exactly where these thresholds are, some weapons scientists remain convinced the Halite-Centurion results attest to the need for a very powerful driver, on the order of 100 MJ, in order to be confident of ignition and modest gain. [14] This follows from the fact that only about a fifth of the available driver energy is absorbed by the capsule in an optimal indirect-drive configuration. [15]

In the period leading up to the second NAS Review (1989-1990), the labs proposed, based exclusively on LASNEX ICF code predictions, that the next step in the laboratory ICF ignition program should be a Laser Microfusion Facility (LMF) with a 10 MJ driver. The H/C experiments addressing the physics of the capsule had demonstrated the feasibility of using x-rays within a "hohlraum" (a small cavity containing radiation) to "drive" (implode) a DT capsule to ignition. But the experimental data suggested that ignition and modest gain required much more X-ray energy absorbed in the target, and hence available from the laser driver, than calculated by LASNEX -- in fact about 10 times more than estimated by an earlier 1986 NAS Review and already planned for the LMF. [16]

However, the low efficiency of LLNL's glass laser technology made the leap to a 5-10 MJ facility appear both improbable technically and prohibitively expensive, while LANL's hastily developed KrF technology could not come close to achieving the desired levels for peak power, beam focusing, and total energy delivered to the target.

Given this background, the 1990 NAS Committee faced a dilemma: recommend development of more efficient and cost-effective short wavelength lasers than glass, to make the 5-10 MJ LMF affordable, or renew the search for ways to overcome the long wavelength disadvantage in laser-target interactions, so that a high energy driver could be developed using robust target designs directly comparable to the classified H/C data. In the end the 1990 NAS Report did neither of these things.

First, it concluded ". . . considering the extrapolations required in target physics and driver performance, as well as the likely $1 billion cost, the committee believes that an LMF [i.e. a Laser Microfusion Facility with yields to one gigajoule] is too large a step to take directly from the present program." This was a not unreasonable judgment based on the technical status of the ICF laser driver programs in both laboratories, and given the desire of some ICF committee members to ascertain the minimum threshold for fully-contained laboratory scale microfusion, in order to identify a publicly acceptable path to future ICF electric power production.

But the fact that an LMF was out of reach at 10 MJ obviously did not imply that ignition was within reach at 2 megajoules. On this score, the Committee's analysis gave way to unfounded optimism, stating, ". . . it should be possible to closely approach and probably achieve, ignition and modest gain in the laboratory by the intermediate step of a few-megajoule class laser driver, which might be constructed for less than $400 M. The glass laser is the only candidate laser driver that could be used for an ignition demonstration in the next decade. Indeed, this demonstration is the natural next step in the Nova program and is referred to by LLNL as the 'NOVA Upgrade.' . . . The real point is that a glass laser will likely allow an ignition demonstration for a reasonable cost, and there appears to be no compelling reason to wait for other drivers to catch up." [17]

Apart from optimistic LASNEX code calculations, which failed to reproduce the Halite-Centurion results, there was no experimental (or even commonly agreed theoretical) basis for the NAS Committee's confident conclusion regarding Nova Upgrade's potential as an "ignition demonstration." The 1990 Committee made no attempt to reconcile its "few megajoule" driver recommendation with the NAS's earlier 1986 estimate of 10 MJ, much less the 100 MJ driver level indicated by the classified H/C results. On the contrary, the 1990 NAS panel report ignored the implications of the H/C results as well as the outcome of a classified LANL 1987 review, based on those results, which had endorsed further exploration of the high-energy, long-wavelength approach, advanced in a proposal from LANL scientists (spearheaded by Leo Mascheroni) to explore the feasibility of a powerful pulsed Hydrogen-Flouride (HF) laser.

"Although it is claimed," the 1990 NAS Final Report noted, "that longer wavelengths could be tolerated on a large (100 MJ) scale, all present indications are that a driver at least an order of magnitude smaller than this will be adequate for an LMF or IFE [Inertial Fusion Energy]." But as recounted above, there were "indications" -- indeed actual experimental results -- that contradicted this assessment. The essentially political and institutional rationale for this (biased) conclusion was made evident in the Committee's report: "Indeed, if it did turn out that a 100-MJ driver were required for ignition and gain," the report noted, "one would have to rethink the entire approach to, and rationale for, ICF." [18]

In other words, the possibility of undermining the ICF status quo, including Livermore's huge vested interest in inefficient glass laser technology, was just too inconvenient for the 1990 NAS panel to contemplate. Better to assume that ignition at 1.8 MJ was "likely" -- and that a sixty-fold increase in ultraviolet beam energy could be focused onto a target without crippling levels of optical damage -- than to take a hard, probing look at the evidence, which might well have resulted in continuation of the H/C experiments, restoration of a balanced driver research program, and indefinite deferral of any project to construct NOVA Upgrade/NIF "in the next decade" [i.e the 1990's.]

Some ICF weapons lab experts believe the 1990 Koonin Committee erred when it endorsed DOE's termination of the Halite-Centurion experiments, which ended in 1988. While undoubtedly expensive, they argue that additional experiments prior to the imposition of the September 1992 moratorium could have yielded critical additional data on scaling relationships for at least some of the key parameters involved in DT capsule implosions, allowing more confident calculations of the minimum absorbed x-ray energy needed to drive various scaled ICF capsule designs to ignition. The primary motivation of both laboratory managements and the DOE appears to have been, not scientific, but rather the desire to make room in the budget for the LLNL NOVA Upgrade and LANL KrF-Aurora programs. These promised longer-term institutional benefits to the labs than a short program of additional secret experiments in the Nevada desert, particularly a program with experimental results that might boomerang and ultimately weaken the case for both pet projects.

Some NIF critics within the weapons complex continue to point to the still largely classified Halite-Centurion results as arguing against the prevailing wisdom in the ICF community that "energy is just a matter of size," and that all the important parameters needed for ignition can be scaled down to the temperature-pressure region planned for NIF. The skeptics argue that at 1.8 MJ -- which NIF cannot sustain in any event without a major breakthrough in optical materials -- the ignition target physics represents too great an extrapolation from the experimental data to warrant confident investment of the huge sums that are now required to salvage the NIF project.

While both DOE and the 1990 NAS review cited cost as a major factor in terminating the underground ignition experiments, NOVA "Upgrade" soon became "NIF", and by the time of the 1997 NAS Review its price tag had jumped from $400 million to $1.7 billion, far exceeding the "ignition demonstration for a reasonable cost" rationale advanced in the 1990 NAS report. However, despite another billion dollars expended on ICF research, confidence in ignition had not increased in line with the rising cost. The NAS Committee's 1990 finding that an "ignition demonstration" on NOVA Upgrade was "likely" became, in March 1997, an even fuzzier finding that ignition on NIF "appears likely, but not guaranteed," and that the project was "scientifically and technologically ready to proceed as planned with reasonable confidence" -- whatever that means -- "in the attainment of its objectives." [19]

There is scant experimental evidence, weapon scientists suggest, to support the case of the NIF proponents that careful shaping of X-ray pulses 1/5 the length of those employed in successful underground ignition experiments, and NIF's modestly higher peak implosion velocity, can control the hydrodynamic instabilities that come with reduced scale and the vastly reduced energy absorbed by the capsule. Yet due largely to classification barriers and the shortcomings of the NAS peer review process, there is nothing in the open scientific literature that convincingly challenges NIF's ultra micro-scale approach to fusion ignition, and it remains the dominant paradigm despite the dearth of experimental evidence to support it. In sum, there are still major gaps in the target physics underlying NIF that cry out for broad, deep, and systematic peer review, and for a more balanced research program to address the areas that remain in dispute.

To its credit, the 1990 NAS Committee did establish a series of agreed technical milestones -- in hohlraum laser physics (HLP) and Hydrodynamic Equivalent Physics (HEP) -- for the research and development phase of the project. However, due to the wide gap in energy and very different target designs involved, HEP could not be linked to the physics of the H/C capsules. These NIF Project milestones became known informally as the "NIF technical contract," but the Academy and DOE failed to hold Livermore to this contract when the lab later failed to surmount some of the critical hurdles.

More Attempts at Peer Review

After a two-year lull, the peer review baton passed to DOE's own Inertial Confinement Fusion Advisory Committee (ICFAC). While a large majority of ICFAC voted in May 1994 to support proceeding with engineering design of the NIF, [20] their decision was once again based on non-peer-reviewed LASNEX code predictions that had been hastily generated in the weeks immediately prior to the meeting. These calculations purported to demonstrate ignition with novel gas-filled hohlraum targets -- predictions that were subsequently not borne out by actual experiments conducted after the meeting. Key agreed "physics milestones" for the NIF project stemming from the 1990 Academy study -- such as demonstrating control over the conversion of laser to x-ray energy and its spatial and temporal distribution on the tiny capsule of deuterium-tritium fuel, and understanding of the conditions required for stable capsule implosion and subsequent propagation of a fusion "hot spot" to "ignition," [21] -- remained unmet, but the NIF project proceeded apace toward the next "key decision" on siting and construction, then slated for the early fall of 1996. According to Chairman Narayanamurti, however, "We all agreed that rapid progress in ICF research and development must continue in order to resolve some important remaining technical uncertainties prior to Key Decision 2 [later renamed 'Critical Decision 3 -- NIF Construction.']" [22]

A year later, at the June 6-8 1995 ICFAC meeting at Sandia National Laboratory, major and potentially crippling problems persisted in the NIF's target physics, particularly in demonstrating, via NOVA laser experiments and computational extrapolations, the ignition potential of the NIF "baseline" indirect drive gas-filled target. Dr. Stephen Bodner of the Naval Research Laboratory urged the committee "to alert the DOE to the current problems in the NIF target." [23] The upshot of the meeting was a proposal by the Chairman, endorsed by several of the members present, to reconstitute an ICFAC Target Physics Subcommittee that could probe more deeply into the critical issues that had been raised at the meeting. The next full committee meeting was set for mid-November, 1995.

In the interim, Livermore ICF program leaders wrote a letter to DOE criticizing ICFAC for its "very intense focus on the likelihood of ignition," and urged that six members be replaced with scientists with greater expertise in "high energy density physics" and "driver technology development." The NIF program leaders also suggested "the charges to the committee should be broadened to reflect the increasing confidence that we are generating in ignition" as well as the increasing involvement of the ICF program in "Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship (SBSS)," including "hydrodynamics, high radiation temperature hohlraums, and EOS [equations of state]." [24] Of course, from a programmatic standpoint, a major virtue of each of the listed SBSS technical areas is that they did not presuppose or require ignition, thereby diffusing the very sensitive -- and potentially "show-stopping" -- issue of whether the NIF Project was scientifically and technically ready to achieve its fundamental mission.

Crafting a Committee to Endorse NIF

Internal DOE documents reveal that, rather than repopulate the ICFAC along the lines recommended by Livermore, in early September 1995 "the Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs [Victor Reis] decided the ICFAC [should] be discontinued in favor of establishing a National Academy of Sciences review group." At the time DOE's Office of Defense Programs was planning to make the formal "Record of Decision" on where to build NIF in September 1996. Hence, "a major review of the ICF program is needed in this fiscal year to reaffirm mission need and give further credence to arguments for success of the National Ignition Facility (NIF)." [25]

According to the draft "Statement of Work" DOE sent to the Academy for review in late November 1995, the new ICF committee would conduct an initial review to determine: "(1) the technological readiness of the NIF project to proceed with construction, (2) adequacy of the ICF program in addressing the confidence of achieving ignition and providing the technical basis associated with NIF performance, and (3) projected capabilities of the NIF to support SBSS." [26]

Following the appointment in February 1996 of Cal Tech Vice-President and Provost Steven Koonin as Chair, the Academy delivered to DOE in May a signed contract for a "Review of DOE's Inertial Confinement Fusion Program," accompanied by a cover letter that contained last minute changes to the already approved Statement of Work included in the contract. [27]

These revised "Terms of Reference" for the ICF Committee represented a considerable watering down of the original contract terms. What had begun ostensibly as a critical outside review to determine: "the technological readiness of the NIF project to proceed with construction;" "the adequacy of . . .confidence of achieving ignition; and "the technical basis associated with NIF performance," became, after massaging by unknown persons within the Academy and DOE, a review that would determine "the scientific and technological readiness of the NIF project" (without reference to the pending construction decision), and "make recommendations to facilitate the achievement of the scientific goal, which is ignition."

In a viewgraph presentation to the committee at its first meeting two months later, Dr. Robin Staffin of DOE's Office of Defense Programs further elucidated the meaning of the latter phrase by explaining that the Committee was merely being tasked to assess "program quality and readiness to seek ignition (emphasis added)." Thus with just a few deft strokes of the pen was the Academy's new ICF Committee transformed from nominally independent reviewer to handmaiden and booster of the NIF Project. However, as evidenced by the bullets in Dr. Staffin's vu-graphs, to which no one in attendance took exception, the programmatic purpose to be served by the committee's initial review remained unchanged: "Need report (at least interim) prior to March 1997 for Critical Decision 3 -- physical construction of NIF." [28]

While all the individual committee members were distinguished scientists and the committee was well suited for technical evaluation -- scientific credentials were never an issue -- the NRC-ICF Committee as a whole was seriously unbalanced with respect to rendering a judgment on whether DOE's ICF program was scientifically and technologically ready to begin construction of NIF at LLNL.

  • Five out of the sixteen members were paid consultants to LLNL.

  • While serving on the committee, three members were directly involved in (successful) bids for closely related DOE Defense Program computer simulation contracts.

  • Overall, 14 out of sixteen members had a personal or institutional connection with the very agency whose program was ostensibly undergoing "independent" review

  • Eleven out of 16 members (i.e., two-thirds) of the committee had either previously stated positions supporting NIF and/or were consultants or advisers to Livermore Laboratory and even the NIF program itself.

  • Contrary to the Academy's claims that the committee was "appropriately balanced," [29] the available data indicated that 12 of 16 members (75%) had "served on previous bodies reviewing the NIF, ICF, or the DOE laboratories," and 13 members (80%) of the committee had "previous experience with the NIF or the ICF program."

  • Despite overwhelming evidence of palpable committee bias, the Academy's review process for the committee's draft report was a perfunctory -- independent reviewer comments were not even circulated to members of the committee.[30]

The committee operated under the ground rule that the chair retained the right to declare a closed session at any time at his sole discretion. A closed session of an NRC committee means attendance by the committee and NRC staff only -- supposedly to protect draft recommendations until completion of the Academy review process and to ensure that sponsors of studies cannot use their funding leverage to pressure members to make changes in draft reports. However, Chairman Koonin chose to undermine these objectives by inviting DOE officials to a closed meeting of the NRC-ICF Committee, in which, according to court papers, DOE "received verbal indications that the committee's analysis found no technical reason to delay NIF." While the obviously stacked nature of the committee strongly implied that this conclusion was never in doubt, Chairman Koonin's actions revealed that the Academy's nominally "rigorous" internal and external review process could be rather easily evaded. Koonin himself was unapologetic. "I don't think anything was amiss...I would do it again," he told a reporter for Science magazine. [31]

The Price of Arrogance: A Flawed Project Pushes Ahead

Confronted with such secretive and biased deliberations on a matter of considerable importance to national policies involving fusion energy, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, nuclear stockpile stewardship, and nuclear non-proliferation, and faced with the rejection by DOE and the Academy of all attempts to foster a full and fair review process of the many outstanding technical issues surrounding the NIF project, NRDC and two California public interest organizations[32] filed suit against DOE and the Academy under the Federal Advisory Committee Act in March 1997, obtaining a permanent injunction barring DOE's support for the NAS ICF Committee and any DOE reliance upon or dissemination of the Committee's report.

Thus deprived of any official reliance on what had been billed as an essential assessment of the readiness of the NIF project to enter the construction phase, DOE went ahead anyway, breaking ground in June 1997. This was done notwithstanding the existence of the following debilitating set of circumstances, which still obtain today despite the expenditure since 1995 of some $1.7 billion on the NIF project and supporting ICF programs:

  • The lack of a scientific and technical consensus justifying confidence in the project's ability to achieve fusion ignition;

  • The lack of a scientific and technical consensus supporting NIF's relevance to the main tasks of stockpile stewardship -- maintaining the safety and reliability of the nation's reduced stockpile of nuclear weapons;

  • The lack of a working engineering prototype of a NIF beamline that meets the project's own minimal performance criteria for supporting ignition experiments;

  • The lack of a working engineering prototype of a main amplifier bundle that meets the full-scale NIF specification, and a higher than expected incidence of capacitor failures resulting in explosions in the Pulsed Power Conditioning Modules (PCM) that power the flashlamps in the main and power amplifiers;

  • The lack of a producible prototype for a NIF indirect drive target that ignites in computer simulations, and a lack of supporting infrastructure for cooling, emplacing, and diagnosing the performance of such targets;

(1) The lack of a scientific and technical consensus justifying confidence in the project's ability to achieve fusion ignition.

Given that ignition is the project's core raison d'etre, the widely disparate views on NIF's chances for achieving ignition, combined with the historical frequency of erroneous LASNEX ICF code predictions, should have been a warning signal to DOE and the Academy that the science underlying NIF was not "sound". In May 1997, shortly before DOE broke ground on NIF construction, Sandia fusion scientist Rick Spielman bluntly and publicly observed that NIF had received "virtually no internal peer review on the technical issues" and that "Livermore essentially picked the panel to review themselves" and had failed to meet some of its own technical milestones. [33]

Skepticism regarding Livermore's claims for ignition on the NIF was also voiced publicly by veteran weaponeers at Los Alamos, including fusion scientist Erick Lindman, warhead designer James Mercer-Smith, theoretical physicist Rod Schultz, and weapons code expert Charles Cranfill. Responding to a talk on NIF given by LLNL weapons program director George Miller at a classified symposium in January 1997, Schultz wrote in the LANL in-house computational physics newsletter, "...statements such as 'this immense laser facility will provide the only means for experimentally studying primary boosting" or "the success of science-based stockpile stewardship depends on achieving ignition on NIF" do not reflect the technical judgment of the nuclear weapons design community."

" In the long run, Schultz noted, "our credibility with policymakers at the national level will depend on their confidence in our technical integrity." [34]

In February, 1997, Cranfill wrote a terse, carefully reasoned memo to senior LANL program managers objecting to the inflated claims being made by the NIF's proponents, noting that NIF construction funding was scheduled to begin in March, "before the report of the National Research Council ICF Review Committee is even released," and that "there seems to be a terrible rush to get past the point of no return with the NIF program."

Cranfill observed that target ignition calculations for the NIF "represent a huge extrapolation from the closest experimentally confirmed results," and noted, "it has not yet been shown that the current calculational capabilities can reliably reproduce the experimental data from the Halite-Centurion Program...validation of these calculations against Halite-Centurion data would seem to be a minimum requirement." He urged LANL management to press for a delay in NIF construction "until the concerns about NIF are resolved," and concluded, "the nuclear weapons labs must not be perceived as placing expedience above integrity in justifying a billion dollar facility. Both the mission statement and the probability of success of such a facility must be beyond reproach." [35]

(2) The lack of a scientific and technical consensus supporting NIF's relevance to the main tasks of stockpile stewardship -- maintaining the safety and reliability of the nation's reduced stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The doubters on this score are legion and not hard to find, but their views have never been encompassed within the terms of reference of any formal peer review. As confidence in achieving ignition on the NIF began to ebb, DOE and LLNL began to emphasize more and more the facility's putative contribution to the resolution of problems that might occur in the nuclear weapons stockpile. However, Seymour Sack, who designed and managed the development of nuclear weapons at Livermore over a career that spanned three decades, believes the stockpile would not be, "in X years, in any worse shape" without NIF. "I personally see a negligible connection," observed Sack in 1997. [36]

Retired Livermore laser physicist and fusion pioneer Ray Kidder, who played a key role in the Congressional deliberations leading up to the enactment of an indefinite test moratorium in September 1992 and prepared a seminal report for Congress on maintaining nuclear weapon reliability under a test ban, supports NIF for its scientific value and its ability to attract high quality scientists to Livermore, but not for its claimed application to resolving problems in the nuclear weapons stockpile. And he objects to the way "DOE has thrown toys at all three labs" and discouraged peer review. "The psychology of it is this: I won't throw rocks at your toy, if you don't throw rocks at my toy." [37]

According to Bob Puerifoy, a retired vice-president of Sandia National Laboratories and 39-year veteran of nuclear weapon design, testing and evaluation, "NIF is worthless...it can't be used to maintain the stockpile, period." [38] When Livermore's founder and resident icon, Edward Teller, was asked by an NRDC staff scientist what role NIF would have in maintaining the nuclear stockpile, Teller replied, "None whatsoever."

Harold Agnew, former Los Alamos director and a member of special Congressional nuclear weapons expert advisory panel, told a March 2000 nuclear security decisonmakers forum in Albuquerque that DOE Secretary Richardson had recently quizzed the panel's experts about NIF's utility in maintaining the nation's warheads. "That's where we choked," Agnew confessed at the forum. "We couldn't agree so the most we could say is it's yet to be determined. Frankly, most of us don't see its relevance to maintaining the active [bomb] stockpile."

The last word at the forum on the subject of NIF belonged to Sandia President C. Paul Robinson. When a scientist in the audience asked if his lab was prepared to propose to Congress its alternative to NIF, the X-1 pulse power accelerator, Robinson said, "The timing is awful" and expressed the fear that Sandia would be tarred with the NIF brush.

"I don't think we have a chance in this NIF environment," Robinson remarked, adding to a roar of laughter, "The second liar never has a chance." [39]

(3)The lack of a working engineering prototype of a NIF beamline that meets the project's own minimal performance criteria for supporting ignition experiments

Livermore's "Beamlet" technology demonstrator for a single NIF-like beamline operated for only four years, from 1994 through 1997. Despite the many NIF laser technology issues remaining to be resolved, or even fully characterized, Beamlet was quietly dismantled in 1998 and sent to Sandia as a "backlighter" diagnostic for the "Z" pulse power facility, one of several wrongheaded management decisions that prematurely narrowed the options to an immediate build, no-build decision and forced the acceptance of greater and greater technological risks.

The 1997 NAS Koonin Panel Review, and the more recent reviews aimed at rescuing the program by the UC President's Council (likewise chaired by Prof. Koonin) and the "NIF Task Force" of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board, all have placed undue reliance on Livermore's assertions that Beamlet demonstrated the essential laser performance parameters required for ignition on the NIF.

For example, based on briefings by Livermore NIF Project managers, the 1996-97 NAS ICF Review Committee concluded in March 1997, "The Beamlet laser has validated almost all aspects of the design of the NIF laser ....the technology exists to meet the NIF laser performance specifications." [40] In reality, no Beamlet shot ever simultaneously tested the full set of NIF performance goals: a full energy, full pulse length shot converted to the third harmonic and focused onto a target, with measurements of the final spot size and beam quality. In fact, focusing onto a target was an impossibility because Beamlet lacked a final optics assembly (FOA). There would be 48 such FOAs surrounding the target chamber on the full 192 beam NIF! Since beam focusing, beam quality, and endurance of the UV optical components are crucial development issues, the failure to probe these issues on Beamlet creates major technical uncertainties that affect key performance criteria and the very rationale for the project.

Without a working prototype NIF-FOA on Beamlet, the reference point for optical damage became whatever had been learned on NOVA. The optical components subjected to frequency tripled light on NOVA were in air, but on the NIF they will be in vacuum, which Livermore researchers only recently discovered has the effect of greatly increasing the potential for "catastrophic" fluence damage to the very expensive fused silica components in the FOA. The result is that NIF will be constrained, at least initially, to a fluence of 3 joules/cm2, far below the NIF design point of 8-9 J/cm2. According to a November 1999 report of Livermore's own Technology Review Group, [41] "aggressive R&D" in materials science will be required to raise the fluence damage threshold to 4-5 J/cm2, but even this level is still insufficient to support ignition.

While one shaped 20ns Beamlet shot did reach the 8 J/cm2 fluence requirement appropriate to a 1.8MJ NIF, this was done using one micron light. Beamlet never met the requirement using the required one-third micron light, and without incurring optical damage at levels significantly below the NIF design point.

(4) The lack of a working engineering prototype of a main amplifier bundle that meets the full-scale NIF specification, and a higher than expected incidence of capacitor failures resulting in explosions in the Pulsed Power Conditioning Modules (PCM) that power the flashlamps in the main and power amplifiers.

Astonishingly, testing of a full scale NIF amplifier bundle prototype -- "Amplab"--only began in 1997, the same year physical construction of NIF got underway, and the results indicated that NIF specifications would not be met. Livermore's own internal review of this work concluded, "It is quite obvious that the required [amplifier] gain cannot be maintained in the presence of normal degradation during system operation." The Amplab experimental campaign was terminated before all the necessary research, particularly in the area of optical distortions, had been performed, leaving an inadequate data base to inform NIF construction.

The first prototype PCM, built at Sandia, began operation in October 1998, 17 months after the start of NIF construction, and was shut down in May 1999. The violence of the explosions came as a surprise, prompting redesign of the PCS modules with shielding to contain debris and dampen the explosion shock waves. But the NIF building design, already poured in concrete, had the PCS modules so closely spaced that the addition of the shielding left no room for servicing the modules. The PCS module -- which weighs about 8 tons -- has now been redesigned to be movable so that they can be extracted from their positions in the capacitor bay for servicing. These engineering changes have contributed to the recent dramatic increase in project cost, but they do not completely mitigate the risks to other components and personnel from the regular occurrence of sizable explosions in the capacitor bay. [42] As with the case of fluence damage, this problem can be mitigated by turning down the power, but once again at the cost of providing a reliable, affordable driver for fusion ignition experiments.

(5)The lack of a producible NIF indirect drive cryogenic target that also ignites in computer simulations, and the lack of supporting infrastructure for cooling, emplacing, and diagnosing such targets.

LLNL seems to have concealed the computational failure of its NIF "baseline" CH (plastic) target design from Congress, and possibly even from its DOE/DP sponsors, in order to achieve a 1996 Record of Decision supporting NIF Construction. The responsibility for ignition target design development and production is shared with Los Alamos and other sites, and given the recent cutback in Livermore's plastic target fabrication, what remains of the target fabrication effort is now concentrated at Los Alamos. The prospects for igniting the higher x-ray temperature CH targets is fading as NIF's deliverable energy is degraded by the numerous difficulties with the laser system. Attention has shifted to Beryllium (Be) targets under development at Los Alamos, as these are thought to produce higher pressures at lower temperatures than plastic, but these Be targets have not yet -- and may never -- prove susceptible to fabrication.

There is, at present, the set comprised of targets that both ignite in simulations and can be manufactured with known techniques is an empty one. This problem is worsened by the recent revelations that fluence damage to the final optics will limit reliable operation far below the design goal needed to support fusion experiments, with, as Livermore is fond of saying, "a margin for ignition." That margin is fast disappearing. The eventual success -- far from assured -- of LLNL's proposed "aggressive R&D" program to increase the safe operating fluence to 4-5 J/cm2, would permit a total energy of slightly less than 1 MJ, but this is insufficient to drive LLNL's "baseline target," which nominally requires at least 1.4 MJ in the laser pulse.

The entire NIF cryogenic target filling, transport and positioning system is still in the design phase. To date, Los Alamos has yet to fabricate a beryllium target with the specifications required for ignition in simulations. The frozen DT layer in the capsule cannot be inspected because both beryllium and CH are opaque to visible light (the only experimental measurements of DT ice smoothness have been obtained from cylindrical targets). Livermore itself admits in a recent publication, "because of their exacting tolerances and dimensions, NIF ignition capsules will require either improvements to previous fabrication techniques or entirely new methods." [43]

In sum, most of the essential non-laser components needed for fusion ignition experiments on the NIF -- including producible target designs that ignite in carefully peer-reviewed simulations, a cryogenic target handling system, core target chamber and laser characterization diagnostics, and advanced target diagnostics, are still in the early stages of development, to say nothing of "demonstrated." Hovering over all these specific technical uncertainties, which may be resolvable with sufficient time and money, is the fundamental uncertainty regarding the capsule-energy scale selected for the NIF, which no amount of time and money can fix if this choice is wrong.

What to Do Now?

In view of the NIF Project's faulty performance predictions, technical mismanagement, aborted and bungled peer reviews, endless R&D requirements, and spiraling costs, Congress may be tempted to cancel it outright. While this would represent an improvement over the alternative of simply pressing ahead with the project, it is probably not the best remedy, as national weapons lab managers usually contrive to survive, and even prosper atop the wreckage of such aborted projects. In other words, LLNL will likely learn little from an abrupt "termination" experience, and the taxpayers will be out their entire $1.7 billion-dollar investment since 1995 in NIF technology and construction.

A better approach would be for the Congress to hold LLNL's (and DOE's) feet to the fire, one peer-reviewed step at a time, by deferring the current construction project and making further NIF funding contingent on rigorous fulfillment of specific technical milestones that would at least ensure a conscientious effort to attain the laser system specifications that LLNL itself asserts are minimally required to support ignition experiments. While LLNL endeavors to meet these milestones, the likelihood of NIF achieving ignition, in view of H/C, must be resolved through a careful review. The NIF project should be pared back to a time- and resource-limited R&D project, with certain inescapable laser system milestones pursued in parallel with a wide-ranging ICF program review:

Milestone 1.0 -- successful development, and performance and reliability testing, of a single NIF beam line that meets all the laser design criteria deemed necessary for achieving ignition, including total energy, power pulse shape, frequency, beam uniformity, focused spot size, beam characterization and control, fluence damage threshold, etc. Following a rigorous independent peer review to ascertain whether these criteria have indeed been met, the NIF Project could proceed to:

Milestone 2.0 -- successful assembly, and reliability and performance testing, of a complete 8-beam "bundle," the basic building block of a 48- 96- or 192-beam system, demonstrating continuing compliance with all the foregoing necessary design criteria related to ignition, with the addition of proven control over beam-to-beam power balance.

Alongside the above R&D effort and milestone reviews, the Department of Energy should sponsor a wide ranging, in-depth NAS review of all the ICF issues that the Academy and DOE have jointly proven so adept at sweeping under the rug. Such a review must examine the technical relevance, risks to broader policy objectives, scientific and technical readiness, and projected life-cycle costs of DOE's effort to construct a fusion ignition facility.


(1) Congress should defer funding for completion of the current NIF construction project and require DOE/LLNL to construct, thoroughly test, and certify the performance of a complete working prototype of a single NIF beamline, followed if warranted by an 8-beam "bundle," with all the nominal specifications needed for ignition, before proceeding with deployment of a 48-, 96-, or the full 192-beam system;

(2) existing optical and other beamline component procurement contracts should be terminated at the number needed for 8 or at most 48 beams;

(3) Congress should immediately direct DOE to request the National Academy of Sciences to convene an inclusive, comprehensive and rigorous 18-month peer review, of the state of ICF science and technology supporting the NIF project, including:

  • A thorough reexamination of the Halite-Centurion results and their implications for the likelihood of achieving ignition with NIF and alternative driver technologies;

  • A probing review of the physics models and assumptions used in the LASNEX code to predict ignition and establish NIF target/driver parameters;

  • An unbiased reassessment of the utility of a fusion ignition facility, relative to other efforts, for the core stockpile stewardship functions of maintaining nuclear stockpile reliability and safety, thereby setting sensible resource constraints within which any future NIF/ICF program, if warranted, could be pursued in balance with other elements of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

  • The relative utility and cost-effectiveness of a scaled-down NIF (e.g. 48 beams) as a "Non-Ignition Facility" for stockpile stewardship experiments in weapons science.

  • The implications of a prolonged and relatively open search for ICF ignition, conducted on a facility otherwise dedicated to weapons physics research, on the proliferation of science and technology for thermonuclear weapons.

  • A probing and candid assessment of the progress -- or lack thereof -- in the science and technology supporting the laboratory microfusion effort, including techniques for limiting optical damage; diagnosing, understanding, and controlling laser-plasma and hydrodynamic instabilities; 3-D computational simulations; ignition target design and fabrication; target cooling and positioning; and target chamber diagnostics.

  • The relative technical, economic, and environmental plausibility -- if any -- of credible alternative approaches to inertial fusion energy (IFE) production, and the relevance of NIF and other candidate 'ignition demonstration" facilities to further development of IFE.

  • If warranted by the findings of the review, a well-defined research agenda leading within a finite period, say five years, either to identification of an affordable approach to microfusion that could be pursued with high confidence in ignition and gain, or to a determination to leave the difficult quest for fusion ignition to future decades and invest the dollars elsewhere.

Based on the combined results of this review, and the parallel laser system readiness view described above, numerous outcomes are possible. Here are five that are emblematic of the options that should be considered within range of an unbiased review:

(1) A finding of NIF's marginal relevance, relative to its costs, to core stockpile stewardship missions, and/or the acknowledgment of overriding policy concerns regarding ICF's role in thermonuclear weapons proliferation, would argue in favor of terminating the current NIF construction project.

(2) The NIF Project is deemed sufficiently relevant and a tolerable proliferation risk, but is judged scientifically incapable, and/or technologically unprepared, to achieve ignition, leading to deployment of a scaled-down 48-beam system for non-ignition Stockpile Stewardship experiments and basic scientific research.

(3) While today it must be considered the least plausible outcome, breakthroughs in resolving laser performance and target physics/fabrication issues during the course of such a review could conceivably result in a firmer scientific and technological foundation for ignition on the NIF, clearing the way for construction of the full 192-beam system in three stages -- another 48 (or 88) beams, a period for test and evaluation, and the remaining 96 beams, despite the steep increase in project costs.

(4) A finding that revalidates the official view of technical relevance and "reasonable confidence but no guarantee" of fusion ignition (e.g. a 50% chance for ignition), but nonetheless concludes that NIF's estimated $10 billion life cycle cost simply cannot be sustained relative to more pressing demands on DOE resources, leading to deployment of a significantly scaled down system, or project termination.

(5) A new credible option for fusion ignition emerges that is both affordable and enjoys a high probability of success, based on careful comparison with the critical performance parameters of the smallest H/C experiments that produced ignition and moderate gain.

This new review must necessarily involve ICF and weapons scientists from all three national weapons laboratories and from other institutions with DOE sponsorship. Conflicts of interest both real and apparent are inevitable in this situation, and the Academy and DOE must guard against a tainted or biased review by ensuring full and fair representation of competing scientific viewpoints, including those without current institutional sponsorship, and by the inclusion of a sufficient number of independent academic and public interest scientists without such conflicts.

Such are the outlines of a genuinely independent ICF review, the kind of broad-based peer review that is open to a wide range of informed opinion but beholden to none, the kind of review that the National Research Council should have conducted long ago, and more than once. Fortunately, it's never to late to seek the truth, and the nation, DOE, and ultimately even Livermore Laboratory itself, will be the stronger for it.

For more information, contact:
Christopher E. Paine
Senior Researcher, NRDC Nuclear Program
(804) 244-5013

Dr. Matthew McKinzie
Senior Scientist, NRDC Nuclear Program
(202) 289-2363


3.Christopher Paine is a senior researcher, Nuclear Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Washington, D.C.

4. GAO staff interview, 06/02/00.

5. Review of the DOE's Inertial Confinement Fusion Program: The National Ignition Facility, NAS Washington D.C. 1997, p.3.

6. NRDC Comments to the SEAB NIF Task Force, 1/12/00, http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nif/nrdc0112.asp, sec. 19, based on data in the Report of the Technology Review Group of the NIF Council, LLNL, Nov.4, 1999, http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nif/nif1104.pdf, p. 3.

7. "With the goal of achieving ignition, the DOE has proposed building a new 192-beam Nd:glass laser system capable of routinely delivering 1.8MJ of 350-nm light at a power of 500 TW....The expected NIF laser peak performance is 2.2MJ of 350-nm light at 600-TW peak power. (The baseline operation is set at 1.8 MJ and 500 TW).. NAS Review of the DOE's ICF Program, p.1.

8. DOE Budget Request for FY 2001, Weapons Activities/Executive Budget Summary, "Crosswalk: Old Budget Structure to New Budget Structure, FY 2000 Adjusted," p. 39.

9. UC President's Council NIF Committee Report, November 18, 1999, p.6

10. Letter from Andrew Athy, Chairman, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, to Secretary Richardson, Feb.11, 2000, p. 1.

11. "Secretary Richardson Settles on a New Budget, Schedule for National Ignition Facility," DOE News Release, May 3, 2000, p. 1

12. "Special Report to the Inspector General, DOE on Dr. P.L. Mascheroni's "Q" Access Authorization by DOE Los Alamos Area Office, prepared by Security Officer William A. Risley, November 21, 1991, p.53.

13. Senior LANL managers ordered Antares destroyed before it could be operated in multiline mode.

14. A 1987 Los Alamos panel chaired by G. Canavan reviewed the implications of the H/C data and concluded "laser energies in the 100 MJ range ... may be required for [laboratory] fusion experiments..." Technical Review of HF-Driven Laser Fusion, LANL,17 Feb. 1987, p. 9.

15. J.D. Lindl, Inertial Confinement Fusion: The Quest for Ignition and Energy Gain Using Indirect Drive, New York, 1998, p. 11- 12. "It should ultimately be possible to achieve a coupling efficiency of 20%-25% through the use of optimal driver and hohlraum geometries....A joint Los Alamos/LLNL program using underground nuclear experiments...demonstrated excellent performance....at higher energies than those available in the laboratory."

16. Bill Broad, "Secret Advance in Nuclear Fusion Spurs a Dispute Among Scientists," New York Times, March 21, 1988, p. 1

17. Second Review of the Department of Energy's Inertial Confinement Fusion Program, Final Report, NAS September 1990, p. 8.

18. Report of the 1990 ICF Review, p.15

19. Review of the Department of Energy's Inertial Confinement Fusion Program: The National Ignition Facility, NAS, Washington, D.C. 1997, "Findings and Conclusions," p.37, emphasis added.

20. 20 Dr. Timothy Coffey of the Naval Research Laboratory was a notable dissenter from this view, stating without qualification that the NIF Project was not ready for full scale engineering design. "The scientific community often makes arguments that even if the initial objectives of a facility are not achieved, the residual capabilities of that facility will be worth the expense in any event. This argument cannot be used in the case of the NIF....If ignition is not achieved, then more than one billion dollars will have been wasted since the residual capabilities of the facility could have been far more easily achieved by different and much less expensive techniques." Letter from T. Coffey to V. Narayanmurti, 25 May 1994, cc M.Sluyter, Director, DOE Office of Research and Inertial Fusion.

21. Ignition is usually defined as when fusion output of the capsule equals or exceeds the laser energy deposited in the hohlraum

22. Letter from Prof. V. Narayanamurti to Dr. Victor H. Reis, DOE/DP-1, August 8, 1994, p. 1.

23. "Minutes - Meeting of the ICFAC, Sandia National Laboratories, June 6-8, 1995", p.44.

24. J.D. Kilkenny, John. D. Lindl, and Howard Powell, LLNL, letter to Marshall M. Sluyter, Office of Inertial Confienment Fusion, DOE, September 3, 1995.

25. DOE Memorandum from R.E. Fisher, Deputy Assistant Secretary for R&D, to Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, 12/15/95.

26. Dave Bixler, HQ DOE/DP/11, FAX Cover Sheet and attachment "Statement of Work (Nov 1995)," to Ron Taylor, OFC NAS, November 21, 1995.

27. Id. The pertinent part of these revisions is as follows: "Description of work to be performed: ... Conduct an initial review to (1) determine the scientific and technological readiness of the NIF project; (2) assess the entire ICF program (including program scope, balance, and priorities; facility operations; experimentation, theory, etc.) and make recommendations to facilitate the achievement of the scientific goal, which is ignition; and (3) evaluate the capabilities of the ICF program (in conjunction with NIF) to support SBSS.

28. DOE, "Minutes: Meeting of the National Research Council's Committee for the Review of the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program, NAS Beckman Center, Irvine, CA, August 1-2, 1996, p. 2; and Dr. Robin Staffin, DOE, "What to expect - DOE & NAS, NAS/NRC Review of Inertial Fusion," viewgraphs, August 1, 1996.

29. Letter from NRC Chairman Bruce Alberts to Thomas B. Cochran, Director, Nuclear Program, NRDC, January 22, 1997, p. 1.

30. T. Cochran and C. Paine, The Rise and Fall of the Third ICF Review, NRDC, Nov. 1997, http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/rftr/rftrinx.asp

31. Andrew Lawler, "Fusion Panel Scored for Tipping Results," Science Vol. 278 14 Nov.1997, p.1219.

32. Tri-Valley CAREs of Livermore, and Western States Legal Foundation of Oakland, CA.

33. Cited in L. Spohn, "Livermore's costly fusion laser won't fly, scientists say," Albuquerque Tribune, May 29, 1997, p. 1.

34. "Rod's view from the rear view mirror, Xwindows, Applied Theoretical and Computational Physics, LANL, Spring 1997

35. C.W. Cranfill, "Concerns About NIF and Stockpile Stewardship," LANL memorandum, Feb. 5, 1997.

36. Quoted in J. Glanz, "A Harsh Light Falls on NIF, Science, Vol. 277, 18 July 1997, p.304

37. L. Spohn, Livermore's costly fusion laser won't fly, scientists say," Albuquerque Tribune, May 29, 1997, p. 1.

38. L. Spohn, "NIF opponents to cite criticism of laser in court battle," Albuquerque Tribune, June 13, 1997, p. A1

39. Agnew and Robinson quoted in L. Spohn, "Laser funding could help local labs, forum told," www.abtrib.com/archives/ sports00/033000

40. Review of the Department of Energy's Inertial Confinement Fusion Program: The National Ignition Facility, National Research Council, Washington, D.C, p.4.

41. Available at http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nif/nif1104.pdf

42. NRDC Comments on the Draft Interim Report of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board NIF Laser System Task Force, www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nif/nrdc0112.asp, Jan. 12, 2000, p.11.

43. Science and Technology Review, LLNL, July/August 1999, p. 9

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