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This BLOG is for LLNL present and past employees, friends of LLNL and anyone impacted by the privatization of the Lab to express their opinions and expose the waste, wrongdoing and any kind of injustice against employees and taxpayers by LLNS/DOE/NNSA. The opinions stated are personal opinions. Therefore, The BLOG author may or may not agree with them before making the decision to post them. Opinions not conforming to BLOG rules are deleted. Blog author serves as a moderator. For new topics or suggestions, email jlscoob5@gmail.com

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Setting the record straight...

By Jay Davis, ========================================================================================== I noticed an August 2nd entry that needs correction on the record. I did many things for the Lab in my 31 years there: RTNS-II, CAMS, heading the Woodruff Grievance Panel, and service in Iraq and at DTRA. However, I had nothing to do with the departure of Moses and his coterie fifteen years go. If that was done by a Davis, it must have been Jim Davis, who had been their supervisor for over a decade and who presumably had the information and leverage to make that possible. I did work with that group for 17 months on AVLIS in the 82'-84' period and found it a searing and shattering experience, both personally and professionally -- and I am not a delicate flower. I fortunately have never experienced such personalities or behaviors since. Unlike many, I was able to rehabilitate myself within the Laboratory, for which I am eternally grateful to John Nuckolls. As CAMS was the result, I suppose it came out all right in the end. CAMS is today and may well remain the Lab's most productive and valuable user facility. There are eerie parallels between NIF and AVLIS. Both demonstrate superb engineering design and execution, negligible cost control or strategic management of resources, and inadequate physics to accomplish the intended mission. If it turns out that the fiscal and intellectual resources squandered on the laughable pursuit of LIFE could have provided the diagnostic set required for a mature and informed ignition campaign, the Laboratory and its overseers will have to answer some very hard questions in the difficult months ahead.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

How could anyone in their right mind fund LIFE when NIF can't do one shot. We cannot afford anyother failed programs.

Anonymous said...

3 main goals for NIF:

LIFE [dead in the water]
Stockpile Stewardship [JASONs: not needed at for some time]
Experimental Astrophysicists' Playground [still viable]

If NIF becomes a user facility for #3, NNSA will have to foot the full cost of subsidized astrophysics Experinents on NIF? Is #2 still viable? Trying to figure out what's coming down the pipeline in terms of the benefits assuming NIF is not shut down like the mirror machine, and operations is funded for some time. How much does one shot cost?

Anonymous said...

Is there any other reason to keep pushing for the development of a high rep rate system (as envisioned for LIFE) for purposes other than power production? Also I was wondering if anyone knows if the fast ignition concept would still work despite the fact that NIF can't deliver on alpha heating. I guess the broader question is whether or not the NIF alpha heating failure truly is the single roadblock to LIFE from the technical, engineering and scientific point of view?

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, there was a program between different labs and universitied (LLNL, GA, Wisconsin, etc. etc. etc.) developing high average power continuous laser systems for eventual goal of power production, that was independent of NIF, and had a more conservative timeline and was much more oriented on scientific and engineering development. In fact, I think this program wasn't even paid for through the normal NNSA block funding mechanism.

I could only speculate that the LLNL participation was hijacked by NIF because that small program was making impressive progress on solid state laser technology and stealing the thunder from NIF, did not have to live up to non-credible and escalatingly larger promises as NIF had to, and relied on different technologies than NIF.

I think from the point of view of science and engineering, that such elements of laser technology should keep on being funded independently of NIF, and that the talent and capabilities should not have to go down with the NIF ship. There are other possible applications for high average power laser technology beyond power prouduction, astrophysics, or high strain rate experiments. There are really talented, honest and hard working people who are unfortunately held hostage by the situation created by NIF.

So this question about the alpha heating failule roadblock is a puzzling thing to me, since it was a surprise to me to see (after being away from this field for so long) that energy production became part of the NIF mission, since energy production had originally been part of a different technology evolution path some time ago.

But I could be wrong. Would love to hear more perspectives from people who are better informed on more current news and research. It's a very interesting area, and there are so many questions that I am sure many of us have.

Anonymous said...

Yes this seems somewhat absurd that NIF's milestones are based on ignition, when really what NNSA cares about (or should care about) are material properties at high strain rate. So this is starting to sound like an intentional set-up for failure. Machiavelli would be proud.

Anonymous said...

If you really want high strain rate experiments, you would be doing non-laser based pulsed power experiments that cost far less than the NIF behemoth. So scratch #2 off the list. You're now down to only #3: the astrophysicists playground, which doesn't make sense from the cost-benefit in the current economic environment. As much as I love astrophysicists and what they do, my answer as a tax-payer is "no" to a purely research based NIF facility. So the only card that LLNL has left is to get #1. LLNL has only one move it can make, and that's to bet everything on ignition. They are making strategic and rational decisions, and many people and programs are impacted by this. The milestone failure is indeed a huge blow to the lab. If they can't figure it out in a very short time, then it's basically all over (for the NIF megastructure in its current form). Now the question on everyone's mind is (misquoting quoting from a Jim Carrey movie) "How will it all end?" We are all waiting in anticipation.

Anonymous said...

August 6, 2012 11:15 AM

Does anyone remember the yig yang magnets that were there one day and sold for scarp metal the next. Was that MFTF? Can't reacall it been way to long.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the yig yang magnets that were there one day and sold for scarp metal the next. Was that MFTF? Can't reacall it been way to long.

August 6, 2012 4:19 PM

Yup, thats the one. Never "flipped the switch".

Anonymous said...

Worked for both Davis's and Moses. Each very capable, good leaders and like many physicists, very competitive.

The rumor at the time was that the AVLIS leadership team under Moses and Spaeth very seriously alienated the government sponsors men. Jim Davis was the post-Emmett AD, and the Laser Directorare senior leaders were competitive with each other. Cliques and power-centers lead to clashes on pogroms. Enigineering ranking in those days was a laugher as the big egos played out kabuki pissing contests by saying their pet engineer was more important because his program was more imporant. We let them play this game for our amusment and the completed the correct ranking in subsequent closed sessions. Fun madness.

Scientists are amusing creatures.

Jay was not part of this, he and many others seconded to AVLIS had suffered his purgatory and moved on to his fate.

Anonymous said...

Yup, thats the one. Never "flipped the switch"...

Inaccurate and incomplete.

MFTF operated as a technical system long enough to demonstrate all of its original engineering technical performance milestones - vacuum, cryogenics, magnetic field and I think, neutral beam power delivered, prior to its mothballing.

It is true that it did not pursue the mirror fusion concept because TMX-U showed the magnetic bottle in the quadupoles did not stem plasma leakage as well as predicted. So DOE, asked to cut budgets by Congress that year, went with the Tokamak confinement scheme, and tech development, while stopping funding of magnetic mirrors.

They allowed the completion and operation of the key technologies, the cryogenically cooled superconducting magnets because these were the first and still the best large-scale superconducting magnet system in the world. The materials and techniques developed will still be used today in ITER.

But it took so long to develop that most of the key LLNL technologists have moved on to other very successful projects. Many now have retired, and a few sadly, like the inimitable Bob Nelson, have died.

Anonymous said...

The history of the MFTF-B is different from what is stated here. The actual story can be easily determined by checking the news stories of the time, where it was widely discussed.

There was no Congressional fusion budget reduction from previous years, but it was also clear that there would be no large increases. DOE submitted a budget to OMB that included the MFTF-B program. OMB then recommended cancelling MFTF-B and shifting the funds to the tokamak program. The head of the DOE fusion program very publicly resigned in protest against this “green eye shades” person at OMB who he claimed had destroyed the management plan. For the succeeding year there were widespread statements that the cancellation of MFTF-B was a terrible mistake. Eventually, informally, people agreed that OMB had exercised better scientific judgement than the management at DOE.

Anonymous said...

To verify the history of the MFTF-B, do a Google search with Kintner, OMB, and MFTF-B.

Kintner was the head of the DOE fusion program who resigned in protest.

Anonymous said...

The key element to remember is that the key systems of MFTF-B were demonstrated. Not the physics, but the confinement technology.

From memory.

10-6 Torr was achieved,

The giant cyroplant operated successfully, producing 2kw of 4K He (I think, too long and my MFTF-B final report is hidden in the garage).

The giant superconducting magnets produced the design magnetic fields. Held together at 4K, Had acceptable cooling losses, did not quench. Operated within the superconductor design parameters.

A monumental engineeing achievement in its own right, and still much of the technical design basis for the very much larger ITER torodial and poloidal field coils. Both NiTi and NbSn still very advanced were used. This may be better success than ITER has achieved recently with its cental solenoid demo.

Very strong engineering team that served the lab well for the next 40 years.

NIF enginners are just as strong and will serve the national interest for the next 40 years.

Been there. Done that.

Anonymous said...

ProductType: Technical report
NTIS Order Number: DE87002340
$86.00-Print on Demand


Page Count: 326 pages
Date: Oct 1986
Author: K. H. Krause T. A. Kozman J. L. Smith R. J. Horan

The Mirror Fusion Test Facility (MFTF-B) construction project was successfully completed in February 1986, with the conclusion of the Plant and Capital Equipment (PACE) Tests. This series of tests, starting in September 1985 and running through February 1 ...

Anonymous said...

Yup, thats the one. Never "flipped the switch"...

Inaccurate and incomplete.

MFTF operated as a technical system long enough to demonstrate all of its original engineering technical performance milestones - vacuum, cryogenics, magnetic field and I think, neutral beam power delivered, prior to its mothballing.

It is true that it did not pursue the mirror fusion concept because TMX-U showed the magnetic bottle in the quadupoles did not stem plasma leakage as well as predicted. So DOE, asked to cut budgets by Congress that year, went with the Tokamak confinement scheme, and tech development, while stopping funding of magnetic mirrors.

They allowed the completion and operation of the key technologies, the cryogenically cooled superconducting magnets because these were the first and still the best large-scale superconducting magnet system in the world. The materials and techniques developed will still be used today in ITER.

But it took so long to develop that most of the key LLNL technologists have moved on to other very successful projects. Many now have retired, and a few sadly, like the inimitable Bob Nelson, have died.

August 6, 2012 8:47 PM

But, but, but,.....man you guys at Livermore could sell a Yugo claiming it's a Farrari. Unfortunately, LLNL has no credibility with a long list of failures, X-ray Laser, Brilliant Pebbles, National Ignition Failure, ......

Anonymous said...

Can you see it now. NIF goes wayside just like MFTF-B? There's a lot of SS and Al there for sale to the highest bidder. Just how many people would LLNS have to shitcan if this occured lab wide.Anyone have a real number. I've heard no more NIF no more Lab. Is there any truth in this?

Anonymous said...

It is too early to judge the success or failure of NIF. Unfortunately the present leadership has over-hyped the "ease of fusion"-see all of the LIFE and NIC PR, alienated most of the stakeholders and community, and is incapable of exploiting the facility for any of its missions.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with all the scathing comments about NIF and LLNL management, as well as the incapabilities of NIF in its current form, I also believe that high power laser engineering and technology in general (that may support ignition experiments, astrophysics experiments, or other applications). From what I remember, there are or used to be extremely capable scientists and engineers in the field (not Moses) are or used to be at LLNL. It's just my personal feeling which others may argue against, but my feelings were that LLNL maintaining a "center of excellence" in laser technology (that was not necessarily tied to whale projects) was a worthy effort. Of course you would have to get rid of the toxic managers.

Anonymous said...

Toxicity is the result of the management issues brought about by the ill-conceived transition from UC management to private contractor management.

The fools at DOE, like Bodman and Pryzbylek own this failure.

It is part of the system and cannot be remedied.

Talented leaders like those who lead the lab previously are no longer be empowered. Those in place are impotent, by design.

Anonymous said...

No "failure" here, it's succeeding exactly as designed. Powerful private corporation gives millions to a party, said party gives them national lab franchise which they collect hundreds of millions on.

From their perspective, this is working great....and like clockwork.

Anonymous said...

Everything complained about on this blog is down in the noise...meanwhile big dollars are flowing precisely as designed.

How do we change that equation?

Anonymous said...

Toxicity was there long before the management change. Bechtel should get even MORE money, having to manage an institution full of con artists. Think of it as hazard pay.

Anonymous said...

I hardly think LLNL is an "institution full of con artists", that's painting with a pretty broad brush. At any given time there are many hundreds of projects with thousands of managers and technical folks working on them. A lot of solid work is being done, by hard-working folks (despite working in the ever-worsening Bechtel environment).

Anonymous said...

LLNL was a working paradise before Bechtel.

Anonymous said...

LLNL was a working paradise for many decades. It started trending downwards somewhat with institution of recharge, more bureaucracy, etc.

But Bechtel has taken that mild downward trend (from a pretty amazing plateau), tipped it sharply downward and punched the accelerator big time.

On the other hand, most of the Bechtel moves are all moves I saw in corporate america starting in the 80s. So, in many ways, we're just catching up.

Our catch-up will be complete when they freeze the pension (and ultimately hand it over to PBGC paying out 30 cents on the dollar) and do another major layoff -- at which point everyone will be doing the work of 3-4 previous people (some of which weren't working very hard).

One significant difference with corporate america:

Corporate America cut a lot more middle management in the 80s-90s. LLNL is bloating (I didn't think it was possible!) the middle and upper management even further.

But, besides that, it's basically 80s-90s corporate america.

Anonymous said...

The current mess falls to the decision makers in Congress, DOE and NNSA who directed amateurs to dabble in organizational redesign, changing environmental conditions and constraints, and mandating a inappropriate organizational response without examining its consequences. A competent student of organizational design, such as Porter or Miles would have told them, if asked, that their response strategy did not FIT the environment.

Anonymous said...

Bush apparently slept though his HBS case studies, let's hope Romney did not.

Anonymous said...

Having worked at LLNL for over 25 years and retiring in 2002 I can tell you that prior to 1989 it was a guaranteed E ticket ride every day. Thankfully because of the UC culture. Things went south when basic physics research fell off the face of the earth because of no weapons program funding. By 1993 it became dog eat dog and the general collegial atmosphere evaporated like piss in a frying pan. My final fling was with NIF and it was not a good experience. Poor management was the order of the day with fiefdoms being built around people little qualified in management. Ed Moses was not a leader at AVLIS and he proved to be even less competent at NIF. It seems everyone wants to chase the break even dream. Just remember all of the previous laser based projects that never got there. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Too bad as LLNL was THE PLACE to work.

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