Washington, DC –Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) today released a bipartisan letter signed by 100 Members of Congress to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu, calling upon the Secretary to address DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) management issues they believe could hinder U.S. research on fusion at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. A recent report by the National Academies of Science [hyperlink] has raised questions about whether scientific research efforts like fusion are being undermined by significant governance and management problems from the NNSA.
Signaling their concern that vital research at NIF is being undermined by the bureaucratic micromanagement, the Members of Congress told Secretary Chu, "Given the tremendous progress to date, we are concerned that—rather than technical and scientific challenges—administrative, managerial and budgetary hurdles threaten to impede this promising research."
Last month NIF made significant progress in their fusion research, firing a record breaking 500 trillion watt laser shot building up to its efforts to kickstart a sustained fusion reaction from a frozen hydrogen fuel target pellet. Unlike current nuclear-fission power, which produces radioactive waste, fusion harnesses the same reaction driving the core of the Sun's power generating energy in the sun and stars. By using lasers to trigger a fusion reaction in very small amounts of saltwater hydrogen fuel, fusion may ultimately promise a new clean power source that could end our dependency on other power sources.
The lawmakers also touted the 500 trillion watt laser shot, saying "this milestone demonstrates major progress and...technical reviews by independent experts indicate that there are no fundamental technical reasons that would preclude eventually achieving ignition."
In the letter, Representatives from both parties urged Secretary Chu to act: "It would be severely disappointing to get so close to a tremendous scientific breakthrough – fusion ignition at NIF – only to see it prevented by bureaucracy. We must not let science be stifled by bureaucracy."
The letter can be viewed by clicking here.
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