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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

New Budget and Timeline for NIF

On May 3, US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced a new budget and schedule for the troubled National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser-complex, based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at the University of California and intended to help America simulate nuclear weapons tests. According to a Department press release:

"An internal review last year disclosed that the NIF laser development and integration program was behind schedule and significantly over budget. In order to properly fund the NIF project and to get it back on schedule, NIF funding levels will be increased by $95 million in fiscal year 2001 and from $100 million to $150 million in fiscal year 2002… Under this plan, the first NIF laser beams are expected to come on-line in 2004, with the full complement of laser beams operational in 2008. The original schedule planned for the first NIF laser beams to be operational in 2002, with the full complement slated to be on-line for use in 2004. … When complete, the NIF will house the world's most powerful laser, with 60 times more energy than any laser in existence today. The NIF will produce conditions close to those at the centre of stars and approaching those that occur inside detonating nuclear weapons. It is the first time such conditions will have been replicated in a laboratory setting."

On May 9, the House Armed Services Procurement Subcommittee also recommended $95 million extra funding for the project in FY 2001. It expressed concern, however, that the Energy Department would try to find the additional funds by cutting other important aspects of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

The total cost of the project is now expected to be in the region of $2 billion, some $750 million over budget.

Reports: Secretary Richardson settles on a new budget, schedule for National Ignition facility, US Department of Energy Press Release R-00-124, May 3; Congress offers the NIF an unexpected assist, San Francisco Contra Costa Times, May 10.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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