Task force receives laser briefing today

Contra Costa Times © 2000 4/26/00

An update on the construction of the world's biggest laser is on the agenda for today's meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board's National Ignition Facility Laser System Task Force.

Charged with keeping an eye on the $1.2 billion project, the task force will discuss the status of NIF's Rebaselining Plan as well as the cost estimate, schedule and options. The group will also discuss the Department of Energy's response to the eight-member panel's interim report.

The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. today at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, 7000 East Ave., Building 123, Conference Room A. The public comment period begins at 2:30 p.m.

Construction of the massive laser has been under scrutiny since August, when the lab revealed the project could be $300 million over budget and up to two years behind schedule.

When completed, NIF is supposed to focus 192 laser beams onto a target the size of a grain of rice, creating temperatures and pressures like those inside a nuclear explosion or the sun.

The laser is a keystone of the Department of Energy's stockpile stewardship program, which attempts to simulate the aging and safety of nuclear weapons through computer models and experiments rather than underground tests.