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GAO Blasts Budget Busting Mega-laser's "Scientific and Technical Challenges and Management Weaknesses"

The Government Accountability Office's latest report on Livermore Lab's National Ignition Facility is quite damning in what it says, yet perhaps the bigger story is that GAO is still far too kind.

Many of the scientific and technical problems that the GAO details in its April 2010 report are the same ones Tri-Valley CAREs and other NIF critics exposed years ago. At that time, Lab management said: if Congress will just give us a bit more time and more money, we will solve the problems.

The NIF program has now received more than 15 years of time and $6 billion of our tax money.


According to GAO, scientific hurdles abound at NIF. Technical problems have not been resolved. Management is weak. Peer review has been lacking (as to why, see the aforementioned "management is weak"). New materials may need to be invented, what's in use has fatal limitations.

The 1.8 megajoules of energy that NIF's 192 beams were slated to deliver to a target has become about 1.3 megajoules, at least for the near-term.

Optics problems (among others) remain unresolved. NIF's lasers will both initiate and propagate damage in the final optics, blowing them to smithereens after only a few shots, and, so, it appears, the Lab will diminish the energy.

The scientific goal of "ignition," first slated to occur in 2002, then 2003, then 2010, has become vaguely-defined as mere "ignition experiments" and pushed out to the 2011/2012 time frame.

Oh, and the really big news? The Lab (again) wants more time and more taxpayer money.

Tri-Valley CAREs' response? Dear Congress: They fooled you once, shame on them. If they fool you twice, shame on YOU.

Click here to read the GAO Report.