NIF fired its 300th laser target shot in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 on Aug. 13, meeting the year’s goal more than six weeks early. In comparison, the facility completed 191 target shots in FY 2014.
Boosting the shot rate has been a top priority for LLNL’s Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Program and in particular for the NIF Team, in order to increase the rate at which the ICF and other programs make progress on their missions. The greater than 50-percent increase in NIF shots from FY 2014 to FY 2015 is a direct result of the implementation of a 120-day facility efficiency study conducted in FY 2014.
NIF is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency charged with ensuring the nation’s nuclear security. The facility’s chief mission is to provide experimental insight and data for NNSA’s science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program in the area of high-energy-density physics, a scientific field of direct relevance to nuclear deterrence and national nuclear security.
“Demand for experiments at NIF has always exceeded capacity,” said U.S Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Davis, NNSA’s acting deputy administrator for Defense Programs. “The impressive work by the team at NIF to produce additional shots has provided important new opportunities for NIF users and increased this unique scientific platform’s contributions to national security. I congratulate the NIF team and its many partners for not only meeting, but exceeding the goal.”
Keith LeChien, director of ICF for NNSA, said, “Achieving 300 shots this year enabled so many critical accomplishments: first-of-a-kind dynamic materials data, more efficiently driven ICF capsules, increased opportunities for academic users, new radiation sources for the Department of Defense, and acceleration of new diagnostic development.”
Added LLNL Director Bill Goldstein, “This is a remarkable achievement for team NIF, whose incredible effort and persistence turned this huge challenge into a reality. Without the support of NNSA and our many partners, this would not have been possible.” Goldstein recognized the work of the NIF Shot Rate Improvement Team with a 2015 Director’s Institutional Operational Excellence Award on Aug. 12.
The 120-day efficiency study was developed in partnership with other NNSA laboratories and drew on best practices at the Z Facility at Sandia National Laboratories and the OMEGA Laser at the University of Rochester. The study identified more than 80 improvements to equipment and procedures that could lead to reduced time and effort for fielding experiments.
To date, the NIF Team has implemented more than 50 of these improvements and will continue carrying out the remainder in FY 2016. Among the improvements are equipment modifications to reduce the time needed to perform critical tasks. Some of the most significant were control system improvements to streamline the shot cycle; process changes to reduce time needed to align targets and diagnostics; and user interface modifications to make it easier for users to set up and execute experiments.