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Will NIF Live Up to Its Name?

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Science  18 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5482, pp. 1128
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5482.1128

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The National Ignition Facility (NIF)--if it works as advertised, which is by no means certain given all of NIF's problems (see main text)--will pump almost 2 million joules of laser energy into a BB-sized pellet of hydrogen. But the bigger question is whether the pellet will actually achieve ignition--that is, undergo a sustained nuclear reaction that gives off as much energy as was put in? Most scientists on the project are cautiously optimistic, but others have grave doubts.