NIF Again?

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Richard Hull
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NIF Again?

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Mar 04, 2009 3:31 pm

The article in the recent IEEE spectrum notes that NIF, (National Ignition Facility), is just about ready to come on line. Way late and way over budget...surprise, surprise!

See article at

http://spectrum.ieee.org/mar09/7887

Thanks to Chris Bradley for the URL.

There is a lot of fluff and slipage in the article. They claim that the facility got into overrun cost issues in 1999 and that the project management was gutted. This sounds almost casual.

What happened was that the head of the entire project lied about his qualifications, many dept. heads brought in unqualified, out of work buddies, etc. The actual design and fabrication of some components had never even been attempted, but was only theoretically doable, and on and on. The project money went down the usual ratholes.

A huge GAO report of a couple of hundred pages, following an investigation, showed gross mishandling of the enitre project, misappropriation of funds and note was made that the major optical fabricators, when queried, were not even sure they could make certain components at all, much less for the sums predicted by the folks originally pushing the entire idea to congress!

So, there was an effective re-start of the project and a couple of extra billions were put on the burner to help fully cook this turkey. Of course, that sum is now miniscule in the great 2009 "change you can believe in" money parlance where 3 millions of millions are forecast to just hold status quo.

NIF will, at first, be used for a show of fusion energy possibilities inorder to create a super piece of fluff, up front, and then go underground or slip beneath the waves as it gets down to the nitty-gritty of what it was really put up for......perfecting, improving and making better thermonuclear weapons for the stockpile. It must be remembered that stockpile stewardship was its "mission-one goal". Fusion energy research was a mere pie-sweetener added to sway reluctant senators and congressmen.

I will be most curious about the lifespan of the huge multi-hundred pound blocks of glass used as frequency doublers or triplers in each laser. There were extreme issues related to the manufacture and longevity of these multi-million dollar optical components. I think several varied and special optical elements were needed for each laser!

Oh well, nothing to see here folks, lets keep it moving along.

For those interested in the original government pubs check out.

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=8174&hilit=nif#p57846


Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Chris Bradley
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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Chris Bradley » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:17 pm

A little browsing today lead me into a couple of web pages that give a thorough account of NIF, for anyone who wanders into the forum and remains confused over its mission and history.

So I thought I'd pin up these in-depth links as a point of reference for those interested enough:

http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nif2/findings.asp

http://fire.pppl.gov/ICF_Happer2.PDF

The second one is the 1990 "Review of the Department of Energy’s Inertial Confinement Fusion Program", and noteworthy and utterly clear is the paragraph atop of page numbered 3 (page 11 of the pdf)

>The technical goal of DOE’S program in ICF is to produce small thermonuclear explosions in the laboratory. The potential military uses of these explosions include extending capabilities to simulate the effects of nuclear weapons on hardware that must function in a nuclear environment, exploring the basic atomic physics and hydrodynamics important for weapons design, developing instrumentation and techniques to study full-scale nuclear tests, and exploring advanced weapons concepts. The potential long-term civilian application of ICF is energy production.

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:16 pm

Thanks Chris for the updates. As the British would say, tongue-in-cheek.....Absolutely brilliant!! What a show, indeed! Software that is used to read the NIF results fails to postdict known experimental work with underground capsules.... and on and on.

Restricted to 33% of its design power due to possible damage to its own optics.....
Peer review failures all along the line.....
All limiting even its role in the stewardship program for which it was truly designed.....

The beat goes on and we probably are being shielded to a degree inspite of this expose'.

I like the bit about fusion's future success once again receeding off into the distance in spite of the money already spent and yet to be spent on NIF.

The troubled world of fusion stumbles about in an already crippled economy where even government officials are admitting to several more years of bleak, yet hopefully slow and agonizing recovery. All of this, provided nothing else "double-dips" us.

That lucky donkey is looking more like the fabled relief column that was supposed to have been sent to the Alamo. Like Mafeking, "Fusion is besieged" with blunder and mischance.
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Richard Hester » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:14 pm

Don't get me started... Some hopeful individuals (a place at the trough?) are talking about a version of this turkey replacing the flashlamp drive with laser diodes. This actually makes a certain amount of sense, but it doesn't address the high stress on optical components due to the sheer energy/radiant flux.

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Frank Sanns » Tue Feb 08, 2011 2:09 am

Chris Bradley wrote:

>
> >The technical goal of DOE’S program in ICF is to produce small thermonuclear explosions in the laboratory. The potential military uses of these explosions include extending capabilities to simulate the effects of nuclear weapons on hardware that must function in a nuclear environment, exploring the basic atomic physics and hydrodynamics important for weapons design, developing instrumentation and techniques to study full-scale nuclear tests, and exploring advanced weapons concepts. The potential long-term civilian application of ICF is energy production.


So what are they saying in this paragraph? Rhetoric, hype, misdirection, and a few other adjectives. Normal state of affairs I would say.

"simulate the effects of nuclear weapons on hardware that must function in a nuclear environment" The LANSE neutron source is already set up for that or EMP facilities so why even include this?

"exploring the basic atomic physics and hydrodynamics important for weapons design and developing instrumentation and techniques to study" (paraphrased) nuclear events " Bingo. This is the only use for this facility.

The other very interesting part is the use of photons to do so. Photons are lousy at momentum transport. Why choose them? I have my own theories. The accepted answer is because in thermonuclear weapons it is reported that photons (x-rays) do the compression. Inconsistencies here that are just partial evidence of what is really going on. The science that is done here is very different that what will be in the public domain in the next 50 years. Misdirection at its finest.

Frank Sanns

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:03 pm

There was an interim report in the mid first decade here. It noted that the DOD nuke design boys were so disheartened by their promised NIF failure to be ready at schedule, that they were already finding work arounds to such a degree that if delays continued, the strategic stockpile stewardship goal would be moot!

Thus, the hot neutron source devices and other already dones and quick kludges have obviated a significant amount of the DOD's needs established prior to NIF's design specs.

As the 1990 report noted, the recommendation at that time by the review committee based on what they saw was that NIF would probably only be good for DOD work and not for useful research into fusion energy or power...........Well even that has largely been worked around by 2011!

No doubt, some fun and useful stuff can still be done, but the overall original goals are all pretty much in the dust. Add the software screw ups and other gotchas plus a lot more money and you might turn a nearly useless facility into just a bad one.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Rich Feldman » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:26 pm

When they decommission it, will any of us still be around to get the surplus high-voltage pulse discharge capacitors? IIRC they have bought and installed 300 megajoules worth. As a taxpayer I feel entitled to at least one of them.
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Richard Hester
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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Richard Hester » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:14 pm

Do you have a forklift?

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Richard Hester » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:47 am

This topic came up some time ago, and I was amused by someone (search!) venting a desire for a big slab of that lovely Nd-doped laser glass for use as a high-tech coffee table. Lest I rant on, I'm biting my tongue...

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Re: NIF Again?

Post by Kreso » Sun Feb 20, 2011 12:27 am

Dear Mr. Hester,

"And each of those 192 lasers uses 16 of those coffee-table-top size amplifier slabs. They are a beautiful neodymium pink-purple colour -- offcuts and seconds show up as display items at optical conferences (like at Photonics West - Moscone Center, Jan 23-28. I'll be there.)

Interestingly, the underlying technology is readily (as in commercially off the shelf) available. One I have operates on almost exactly the same principle and produces 5 megawatts in a 7 nanosecond pulse, only about 8 orders of magnitude less than the NIF . It's more portable though - I can carry it in my car."

From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/4196928046/

Already discussed on the forum.

Kind Regards,

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