2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2000 10:00:51 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] NIF at the New Millennium
The National Ignition Facility at the New Millennium

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As the curtain descends on 1999, we look back at one of Tri-Valley CAREs'
top issues - and we offer you, our readers, this pop quiz on the National
Ignition Facility (NIF) currently under construction at Livermore Lab. Each
of these questions has been covered in prior editions of Citizen's Watch,
and we will send you back issues, fact sheets or a copy of our NIF report
on request.

Here is your test. The NIF is:

(1) a nuclear weapons project?
(2) the largest weapons facility ever to be built at Livermore?
(3) a means to "compensate" weaponeers for the "loss" of underground
nuclear testing?
(4) intended to advance nuclear weapons design capabilities?
(5) a nuclear proliferation risk?
(6) cited by India as a reason for that nation's nuclear tests?
(7) at odds with both the Comprehensive Test Ban and Non-Proliferation 
(8) unneeded for the task of merely maintaining the arsenal?
(9) wildly over budget and behind schedule?
(10) beset by serious underlying technical problems?
(11) under scrutiny from Congress and the Dept. of Energy?
(12) draining funds from civilian science initiatives at the Lab?
(13) a source of more radioactive waste and pollution?
(14) a project that ought to be cancelled?
(15) a focal point for peace activists around the globe?

Answer: all of the above are true.

Still, at year's end, our Congresswoman, Ellen Tauscher, visited the Lab
and vowed to continue supporting NIF, calling it a "have to have" project.
"Technically, NIF is very sound," she opined to reporters.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, speaking at a whirlwind, two-hour visit
to  the Lab on Dec. 21,  seemed unwilling to fundamentally rethink the
question of building NIF.  We're (DOE) going to fight the criticism," he
told reporters. "The project is sound, it's just badly managed."

In contrast, the public is neither fooled nor in denial of reality. At the
Dec. 8 public hearing in Livermore on DOE's draft supplemental  review for
the NIF, numerous people spoke clearly and eloquently about the necessity
of stopping the project and choosing instead a future without nuclear
weapons, proliferation and more environmental contamination.

The year's end saw additional detail  come to light regarding NIF's
technical difficulties.

As we reported previously, employees at the three weapons labs say NIF is
suffering severe problems in developing the three necessary laser
components - optics, diagnostics and targets.

At the meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on NIF,
held in Livermore on Dec. 13, 1999, Lab scientists told the panel they had
not yet found a material out of which to make targets - which are the
BB-sized pellets that will hold the frozen radioactive fuel NIF's laser
beams are supposed to blast into thermonuclear ignition. Three types of
materials, two plastics and a beryllium shell, are being pursued,
scientists said. As yet, while research on targets has gone on for many
years, no target has been perfected, and each material is still presenting
its own unique problems. The Lab scientists proclaimed they are "close" to
developing a target.

Neither have scientists figured out how to load the targets - of whatever
material - into the NIF's reactor vessel. Serious, unresolved problems
exist with alignment and timing.

Further, presentations made to the SEAB Task Force on NIF publicly revealed
some of the problems with diagnostics that workers have discussed with us.
Diagnostics, in sum, are the devices needed for  researchers to understand
what is actually going on in a NIF shot. No diagnostics means no data.

To begin, diagnostics for NIF have not been designed. Lab scientists
postulated they might have a "core package" of diagnostics ready for
"acceptance" by 2003. This would trigger the next phase of diagnostics
development, which would extend from "'04  onwards," according to the Lab's

None of the costs associated with developing and creating  NIF's
diagnostics are included in the price of the project, Lab scientists
revealed. It is becoming clear that multi-billion dollar NIF  is a bit like
buying a car and finding out the engine and tires are extra.

The Lab struggled to put the best possible face on NIF, insisting  that
everything can be taken care of by  "rebaselining"  NIF to include more
time and money. To underscore their point, the Lab made a lengthy
presentation of  NIF's external reviews. In so doing, Lab scientist Joe
Kilkenny violated a court order obtained by three organizations -- Natural
Resources Defense Council, Tri-Valley CAREs and Western States Legal
Fopundation -- to prohibit the use by DOE or its contractors of a report
prepared by the 1997-98 National Academy of Sciences panel on NIF due to
the biased make up of the panel and its egregious noncompliance with the
Federal Advisory Committee Act. Our attorney is following up.

Note: for more on NIF, visit our website at http://www.igc.org/tvc

Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA USA 94550

<http://www.igc.org/tvc/> - is our web site, please visit us there!

(925) 443-7148 - is our phone
(925) 443-0177 - is our fax

Working for peace, justice and a healthy environment since 1983, Tri-Valley
CAREs has been a member of the nation-wide Alliance for Nuclear
Accountability in the U.S. since 1989, and is a co-founding member of the
international Abolition 2000 network for the elimination of nuclear

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