What NIF Might Do?

The gist of NNSA’s important announcement: After $5 billion and counting,
(emphases mine)

NIF’s laser beams CAN BE effectively delivered and ARE CAPABLE of creating sufficient x-ray energy to drive fuel implosion, an important step toward the ultimate goal of fusion ignition.

Further,

NIF will be a cornerstone of a critical national security mission, ensuring the continuing reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile without underground nuclear testing…

This is more of Tom D’Agostino’s positioning of NIF as essential for CTBT ratification (which he has done face-to-face to me and others). That’s not a prudent deal, to hinge CTBT ratification on what NIF “MIGHT” be capable of.

… while also providing a path to explore the frontiers of basic science, and potential technologies for energy independence. It is a prime example of how our investment in nuclear security is providing the tools to tackle a broad range of national challenges.

Is there nothing NIF can’t do? Recall that exactly a year ago tomorrow they had Terminator Gov. Schwarzenegger going “gee whiz,” as follows:

This laser technology has the potential to revolutionize our energy future,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “If successful, this new endeavor could generate thousands of megawatts of carbon-free nuclear power but without the drawbacks of conventional nuclear plants. This type of innovation is why we are a world leader in science, technology and clean energy, and I could not be prouder that this work is happening right here in California.

Speaking for myself, I will grudgingly concede that NIF has succeeded in its real mission of ensuring that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory survives as a nuclear weapons lab (NIF-specific funding is 25% of all DOE funding for LLNL). In 1995 the Galvin Commission recommended eliminating the redundancy of having 2 nuclear weapons design labs and ending weapons programs at Livermore. Then rose NIF…..

The bolded emphases on NNSA’s repeated use of qualifying language and future tense is mine. Does this press release really say anything of substance at all?

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