Senate restores most of NIF funding

The U.S. Senate has restored most of the funding for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after more than four months of uncertainty.

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Senate has restored most of the funding for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after more than four months of uncertainty (see Optoelectronics Report, July 1, 2005). The Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Committee voted to approve a bill for FY 2006 that includes $327.4 million for NIF-$141.9 million for construction, $43 million for diagnostics, $40.2 million for ignition, and $102.3 million for demonstration. The total amount is $10 million less than the Bush Administration had requested.

According to LLNL, NIF is already more than 80% complete, and eight of its 192 laser beams have been placed into operation. The project is scheduled for completion in mid-2009, with first ignition experiments expected to begin the following year.

“I’m pleased that my colleagues in the House and Senate have recognized the eight years and nearly $2.8 billion invested in construction of NIF, and have restored funding to this critical component of our nation’s stockpile stewardship program,” said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) of the Tenth Congressional District, which includes the LLNL site. “These funds will allow NIF to continue moving forward on construction and help complete our mission to ensure safe, reliable, science-based stockpile stewardship.”

However, Tauscher added that while she is pleased that Congress has reaffirmed its commitment to stockpile stewardship by fully funding the NIF construction account, she is concerned that some categories of funding for the NIF program may have fallen short.

“Even relatively small cuts in the NIF program budget can result in significant long term impacts,” Tauscher said.

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