Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 44 / Number 1 / July 2003 / Pages 11-18
Technical Paper / Fusion Energy - Fusion Plenary and Overview
The National Ignition Facility (NIF), currently under construction at the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is a stadium-sized facility containing a 192-beam, 1.8-Megajoule, 500-Terawatt, 351-nm laser system and a 10-meter diameter target chamber with room for nearly 100 experimental diagnostics. NIF is being built by the National Nuclear Security Administration and when completed will be the world's largest laser experimental system, providing a national center to study inertial confinement fusion and the physics of matter at extreme energy densities and pressures. NIF's 192 energetic laser beams will compress fusion targets to conditions where they will ignite and burn, liberating more energy than required to initiate the fusion reactions. NIF experiments will allow the study of physical processes at temperatures approaching 100 million K and 100 billion times atmospheric pressure. These conditions exist naturally only in the interior of stars and in nuclear weapons explosions. In the course of designing the world's most energetic laser system, a number of significant technology breakthroughs have been achieved. NIF is now entering the first phases of its laser commissioning program. Low-energy preamplifier rod laser shots have been successfully propagated through the entire laser chain. Higher energy shots are planned through the end of 2002. NIF's target experimental systems are also being installed in preparation for laser performance and experimental capability commissioning starting in 2003.