Sending Office: Morelle, Joseph D.
Sent By:
Joanne.Stiles@mail.house.gov

        Request for Signature(s)

Support the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Program:
Invest in U.S. nuclear science leadership and technological superiority

Deadline to join: Wednesday March 27, COB

Current Co-signers: Morelle, Lofgren, Swalwell, Peters, Foster, Hastings

 

Dear Colleague:

We hope you will join us in signing a letter to Chairwoman Kaptur and Ranking Member Simpson supporting fiscal year 2020 appropriations of $565 million for the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program in the Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies
Appropriations bill.

This ICF program is a critical component of the Stockpile Stewardship Program that maintains a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. The ICF program is essential because it:

  • Supports the only leading-edge experimental facilities that can achieve the high-pressure, and high-energy-density regimes found in an operating nuclear weapon without underground nuclear testing.
     
  • Supports critical decisions related to the maintenance and modernization of weapons systems and achieving scientific milestones set in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) ten-year strategic plan.
     
  • Is key to avoiding technological surprise by other nuclear weapons states by helping maintain U.S. leadership in this field of science.
     
  • Maintains a critical pipeline of the talented workers NNSA needs by attracting future scientists and engineers to the nuclear weapons program through focusing on one of the greatest scientific and technical challenges of our generation—achieving controlled
    fusion in the laboratory.

The ICF program maintains three major, world-leading facilities: the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Z Facility at the Sandia National Laboratories, and the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s
Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE).  In addition, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Naval Research Laboratory contribute novel approaches to ignition, and General Atomics and Schafer Corporation support target fabrication.

I hope you will join us in supporting the ICF program. If you would like to sign this letter, or if you have any questions, please contact Jo Stiles (Morelle) at
joanne.stiles@mail.house.gov, Andrew Ginsburg (Swalwell) at
andrew.ginsburg@mail.house.gov, or Priscilla Kim (Lofgren) at
priscilla.kim@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

JOSEPH MORELLE
Member of Congress
 

ZOE LOFGREN
Member of Congress
 

ERIC SWALWELL
Member of Congress

 

                       

Dear Chairwoman Kaptur and Ranking Member Simpson;

As you develop the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we write in support of the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program under the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA). Specifically, we ask for your continued support and request appropriations of $565 million for the ICF program. In addition, we support an independent review of the ICF program by the JASON Defense Advisory Panel. The review would address both the
programmatic and technical merits of the ICF program and offer recommendations on how to further strengthen the program over the next 10 years.

The ICF program has been an integral part of the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) since its inception in the early 1990s following the voluntary cessation of underground testing and as such, is critical to our national security – the SSP
was specifically developed to maintain a safe, secure and effective deterrent in the absence of testing. To support the SSP program, the ICF program maintains three major, world-leading High Energy Density (HED) science facilities: the National Ignition Facility
(NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Z Facility at the Sandia National Laboratories, and the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). In addition, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and
Naval Research Laboratory contribute novel approaches to ignition, and General Atomics and Schafer/Belcan Corporation support critical target fabrication requirements for the Program. 

The NIF is the most powerful laser in the world and has already demonstrated significant fusion yield from alpha-heating, the key step in demonstrating ignition. Both Z and the NIF are performing important experiments on the properties of special nuclear
materials under weapons relevant conditions to reduce assessment risk as our weapons systems age. The OMEGA Laser Facility supports the scientific and technical missions of the NIF and Z while providing important data that supports the pursuit of ignition
and the development of key capabilities needed to answer predictive questions about the current stockpile. OMEGA is also the most prolific facility for training students to become the next generation of stewards through the NNSA academic programs. In addition,
many of the complex targets needed for every experiment are developed and fabricated by General Atomics (in San Diego, CA) and Belcan (in Livermore, CA). 

These facilities allow scientists to create and understand materials in the HED state. Ninety-nine percent of the yield from the US nuclear arsenal occurs under HED conditions. Without underground nuclear testing, ICF research is the only way to improve
understanding of specific aspects of weapons performance, weapon effects, and nuclear survivability within our current stockpile.

The results of experiments at ICF facilities support critical decisions related to the maintenance and modernization of weapons systems and achieving scientific milestones set in the NNSA’s ten-year strategic plan. Investment in inertial confinement fusion
research is needed to maintain U.S. leadership in HED science. Recent reports indicate that Russia and China are engaged in extensive nuclear forces modernization programs, including significant investments in research capabilities, and are planning laser
and pulsed power facilities that would rival or exceed the size and capabilities of the NIF and Z.

If Russia or China achieved fusion ignition before the United States, it would cede long-held U.S. technological superiority casting doubt on U.S. scientific leadership that would undermine confidence in our nuclear deterrence. In January 2015 the directors
of the three NNSA laboratories expressed their collective view to NNSA leadership that the “the U.S. must continue to strive to be the first nation to demonstrate ignition and high yield in the laboratory” and that the pursuit of fusion “is critical for the
long-term health of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.” Concern for avoiding “technical surprise from another country” was also highlighted in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. ICF experiments not only train and test the judgment of the scientists called upon
annually to certify the current stockpile, they train the experts called upon to evaluate the capabilities of our adversaries.   

By focusing on one of the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century, achieving ignition and controlled fusion in the laboratory, the ICF program serves as a magnet for recruiting the next-generation of highly-skilled scientists and engineers to
the nuclear weapons program. As NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Haggerty testified at her confirmation hearing, “recruiting, retaining, and growing the highly skilled workforce” is a top priority for the NNSA. The value of the ICF program in developing the
nuclear security workforce is illustrated by Dr. Charles Verdon, who spent 19 years at LLE and led the Nuclear Weapons Program at LLNL before being appointed to his current position as the NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, and Dr. Kimberly Budil,
the new head of the LLNL Weapons Program who began her career in the ICF program at LLNL and spent several years doing experiments on the OMEGA Laser Facility at LLE.

The emphasis on science that characterizes the SSP is demonstrated by the NNSA funded development of chirped-pulse amplification by two scientists at the LLE which was recognized with the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. This technology enabled a revolutionary
increase in laser power and is now used in applications ranging from LASIK eye surgery to the manufacturing of materials used in cell phones. Today, stockpile science also has significant overlap with the science and technology needed to further the drive
for practical, affordable, and clean fusion energy. The demonstration of an igniting plasma could well be the next Nobel Prize for the ICF program.

It is because the ICF program is vitally important for our national and economic security that we thank you for your past support and ask that you provide appropriations of $565 million for the NNSA’s ICF program in the FY 2020 Energy and Water Development,
and Related Agencies Appropriations bill and direct the JASON Defense Advisory Panel to conduct an independent review of the ICF program. An independent review would provide DOE guidance from technical experts on how the program can best support future nuclear
deterrence and broader national security missions.

Sincerely,

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