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FYI Number 154: December 3, 2004

FY 2005 Nuclear Weapons Initiatives Funding

The omnibus appropriations bill that will be sent to President Bush in coming days does not contain funding for research on low-yield nuclear weapons and the "bunker buster" nuclear weapon. Congress also did not provide money for site selection for a new facility to produce plutonium pits, and did not provide money for enhancing test readiness at the Nevada Test Site.

Selections from the Joint Explanatory Statement follow. The entire statement language can be accessed at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/omni2005/index.htm under Division C; reference the section entitled "Weapons Activities" more than mid-way through the document. Note that all amounts specified below must be reduced by the 0.8% across-the-board reduction.

DIRECTED STOCKPILE WORK:

"The conferees do not provide $9,000,000 for advanced concepts research on new weapons designs, but the same amount is made available for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program to improve the reliability, longevity, and certifiability of existing weapons and their components. The conference agreement provides $270,087,000 for DSW Stockpile services. No funds have been provided for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP)."

PIT MANUFACTURING:

The Joint Statement on plutonium pits, the device used to trigger a thermonuclear warhead, set forth the following conditions:

"For the pit manufacturing and certification campaign, the conference agreement provides $265,671,000. The conference agreement provides $132,005,000 for W88 pit manufacturing and $60,960,000 for W88 pit certification, the same as the budget request. Providing the requested level of funding will ensure that the NNSA maintains its commitment to produce a certified W88 pit by 2007. The conference agreement provides $13,500,000 for Pit Manufacturing Capability and $7,000,000 for Modern Pit Facility. The conferees agree that funding for Modern Pit Facility cannot be used to select a construction site in fiscal year 2005."

NEVADA TEST SITE READINESS:

The Bush Administration sought funding to reduce the current 24-36 months needed to test a nuclear weapon at the Nevada Test Site. The House version of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill rejected this request. The Senate appropriations committee never released its own version of the bill. While the omnibus bill contains customary funding for the test site, it does not include the requested money for enhancing test site readiness. See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2004/082.html for an explanation of the House position.

INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION:

The Statement also covered inertial confinement fusion ignition and high yield, as well as inertial fusion technology:

"Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High Yield.--The conferee agreement includes $541,034,000 for the inertial confinement fusion ignition and high yield program. This represents a $25,000,000 cut of the NIF project baseline. An additional $46,000,000 is provided to support expanded research in non-NIF related ICF research including petawatt and high-energy petawatt laser development. Funding also enables continued development of the beryllium shell targets currently envisioned for ignition demonstrations in 2010. This target, if successful, may enable advancement of the 2014 date for ignition specified in the budget request documentation, a date which represents a 4 year slip from the original goal of 2010. Since demonstration of ignition by 2010 was the rationale provided for construction of NIF under the current baseline funding, the conference is extremely concerned with suggestions of major delay in that date and requires that effort focus on achieving that goal on the timescale originally proposed. Until very recently, the beryllium shell and fill tube design was not considered viable, but it is now viewed by the program managers as the best option for regaining the 2010 ignition goal. Significant risks are associated with this design however, which is why this target design was not considered earlier in the program. To estimate the probability of success for this new target design, the conference mandates that a full review of NIF progress and the use and promise of this target be accomplished by an outside panel of experts, the JASONs, to validate the current NIF construction baseline and the outlook for ignition with this target design. As part of this validation, experiments should be designed and completed on alternative drivers, such as LLE at the University of Rochester and the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories, to increase confidence in the performance of this target. The conference further requires that these experiments, as well as the JASON review, be used to develop a position paper authored by the NNSA Laboratory and LLE Directors by June 2005, discussing the promise of this target design to achieve ignition on the original schedule of 2010, 4 years ahead of the date specified in the current Budget. The conference is also aware that the laser glass used in the Japanese GEKKO program, which is identical to the optics used in the NIF project, has significantly degraded in efficiency over time. The conference requests the JASONs undertake a study utilizing the Japanese laser optic operations as a measure to determine if the NIF laser optics are performing as originally estimated and what impact this will have on the project, the ability to achieve ignition by 2010 and the overall lifecycle costs of replacing the optics more frequently. The conference provides $5,000,000 for the development of advanced target fabrication and diagnostic techniques required to support experiments at Omega, Z machine and NIF employing advanced materials. Target fabrication and manufacturing capabilities are critical in fielding increasingly sophisticated experiments."

"Inertial Fusion Technology.--The conferees also include $25,000,000 to continue development of high average power lasers and supporting science and technology, the budget request for the Naval Research Laboratory, and $73,469,000 for the University of Rochester, an increase of $28,000,000 over the budget request. The additional funding is provided to the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics for the OMEGA Extended Performance (EP) Facility in support of the nation's stockpile stewardship program. The conference recommendation includes $9,000,000 to initiate double-shift operations and assessments and initial development and testing of Z-pinch inertial fusion energy. The conference recommendation includes $1,000,000 to the University of Nevada-Reno for magnetized plasma/laser interaction studies at the Nevada Terawatt Facility, using the Zebra pulse power machine and the Leopard short pulse laser system."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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