News & AnalysisLASER FUSION

Ignition Facility Misses Goal, Ponders New Course

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Science  21 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6101, pp. 1444-1445
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6101.1444

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The National Ignition Facility (NIF), a $3.5 billion laser fusion lab in California, looks certain to miss its deadline at the end of this month for achieving ignition, a self-sustaining fusion reaction that yields more energy than was put in to make it happen. This milestone is considered key for NIF's twin goals: demonstrating the feasibility of fusion energy, and ensuring the reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. By law, the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, has until 60 days after the deadline to produce a report explaining what barriers to ignition remain, how they can be overcome, and what implications there are for the stockpile.