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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

NIF

Good article in Nature News on progress on Z with a mention of NIF's problems http://www.nature.com/news/triple-threat-method-sparks-hope-for-fusion-1.14445 Also, a reminder that NIF's breakthrough 14 kJ shot is not break even (see #5 of the list) http://news.sciencemag.org/policy/2013/12/insiders-guide-2013 Not good news on the propaganda front for NIF. Time for new super-duper capsule design?

84 comments:

Anonymous said...

The NIF spin machine blew it beyond repair by trying to make too big a splash with the "scientific breakeven" data point. Their credibility was already destroyed, and the only way back was to reestablish credibility by not lying and making s**t up. But they chose to continuing lying and making s**t up.

Anonymous said...

The only "super duper capsule" design is the one that has the NIF disassembled parts in it. The hope is that the disassembly takes place soon and that the capsule is never opened again.

Anonymous said...

A different design will not help, since the one they have been using is already optimized for ignition according to simulations. Yes, sims are wrong but they have no way other than hunt-and-peck-and-pray to sensibly improve it. A bigger laser would definitely help, but good luck selling that idea.

Anonymous said...

The NIC effort said about 1 1/2 years ago that the capsules would be manufactured to tighter specs to improve stability. How is that going?

Anonymous said...

I was told Parney blew his stack when the "scientific break even" was announced

Anonymous said...

Moses was canned only a couple days later. I wonder if the events were related.

Anonymous said...

What is NIF?

Anonymous said...

Claiming "break even" was too deceiving for even the hard-core NIF supporters. I heard that the word "National" is being removed from its name and the facilty will be known as just IF.

Anonymous said...

What is NIF?

Apologies, NIF is the No-Ignition Fiasco

Anonymous said...

I wonder when they will re-name it, and to what. The name alone is a huge embarrassment. Something related to Star Trek, maybe?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, Sandia will lobby for and probably get a bigger machine, with the full support of the JASONs. (As reeported in the first link.)

Anonymous said...

"I was told Parney blew his stack when the "scientific break even" was announced"

Ha...and where is Parney now? NIF is too big to fail so it will not.

Anonymous said...

It already did fail, though at least for now it is too big to kill. Watch the budget do nothing but shrink in the future, though.

Anonymous said...

NIF is a shameful embarrassment sold with lies. However, it did make a great backdrop for the latest StarTrek movie. Other than that it is of little real use.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps. But it's LLNL has made it clear that NIF could replace Z in terms of capability. So by LLNL's own position, it should be either NIF or Z, not both. Which has better prospects? I would be interested to hear people's different thoughts and opinions.

Anonymous said...

The Z approach is pretty clever. But aren't the Russians going after ignition through their own even bigger version of Z that they are building?

Anonymous said...

I had to copy -repost this, it's just too classic. Would be a shame if it ends up deleted. Whoever posted it, kudos for the chuckles. I had a hearty laugh out of it. Thanks for the clever and witty trolling.







Z cannot explore certain regimes that NIF can, good luck to Z and ITER we are all in this together. If it was 1484 we would only be 8 years away of discovering a new world that no one has ever seen before or set foot on before...think about that! A NEW world...a new realm, we cannot stop now, we must not stop now. Onward to the conquest of a unknown paradise, a paradise that can give rise to untold riches!

Anonymous said...

NIF put out a "blob chart" months ago which claimed that they could cover almost all relevant physics regimes. It was mostly erroneous and was challenged by Sandia. Of course, the lab refused to retract it.

Anonymous said...

ICF is basically dead at all labs, and like magnetic fusion, if ICF survives it will be in Europe. NIF was built for ICF and is mind-bogglingly expensive, meanwhile Z is very cheap in comparison and is a much more efficient machine for making x-rays. If you still want to do big laser experiments, you have Omega, and it already has a short-pulse laser capability. And the people running these facilities are reasonably trustworthy, and at least don't have a recent history of spectacular deception and attempts to manipulate DOE and Congress.

So, the sensible thing is to kill NIF, not Z, and keep Omega going. But sometimes the sensible thing isn't what winds up happening.

Anonymous said...

A multi-billion dollar facility too close to Greenville road, lack of real security fence, no informed guards but they do have full time landscapers.....nice. But hey...Star Trek was filmed there!!

Anonymous said...

Beyond the movie cameras, NIF is not a good place to work. Based on how they treat their employees without concern, it is easy to blow smoke in front of congress.

Anonymous said...

Here is a question: is there any new news regarding the budget cuts to the subsidies for NIF shots for the academic community? Is LLNL robbing Peter to pay Paul again? Or did NNSA change their position? The shots are so damned expensive. There is no way to drastically reduce costs. All those hi-rel components to look after,maintain and replace. There can't be a user group if the users can't afford the shots.

Anonymous said...

The Sandia approach won't work because it uses lasers which is in LLNL's mission space. You know that Sandia will slowly modify their ICF design so that they will add more lasers and remove any magnetic compression over time until it is just another NIF. Sandia doesn't want to admit that z is a failed approach to ignition. In their typical fashion, they just do their predictable thing of crossing the line when it comes to mission space. They even keep trying to develop modeling programs for primaries and secondaries only to be shut down. Why? I guess they aren't happy with managing the reliability of nuts and bolts. Their attempts to hijack mission space is truly pathetic. And why would a bona fide top notch primary designer leave their respective communities at LANL or LLNL to go to Sandia? I would love to see Sandia's roadmap for getting to 10 Hz using their design. The giant carousel idea is truly laughable. And yet at the same time they have the gall to criticize NIF. Even if Z can get ignition, their approach is still dead in the water when it comes to power generation.

Anonymous said...

And delivering hundreds of precisely arranged laser beams from a giant stadium-size facility, at 10 Hz yet, onto a stream of perfectly layered targets fired into exactly the right place at the same 10 Hz, isn't also laughable? Come now, this is not and has never been about power generation.

Anonymous said...

Sandia complained about the NIF blob chart and Parney put a stop to its use (SNL didn't claim it was inaccurate, just simplistic) and asked SNL for their version. SNL never delivered so he had WCI (not NIF) create a newer version. So far SNL hasn't complained. NIF does cover far more of the physics than Z.

Anonymous said...

Sandia complained about the NIF blob chart and Parney put a stop to its use (SNL didn't claim it was inaccurate, just simplistic) and asked SNL for their version. SNL never delivered so he had WCI (not NIF) create a newer version. So far SNL hasn't complained. NIF does cover far more of the physics than Z.

Anonymous said...

Based on power industry profit margins, the plant investment alone makes any ICF approach laughable, even if wild eyed rep rate WAGs and reliability wet dreams were to come true. The power industry boards of directors ROTFLTAO when the subject of commercial ICF power generation comes up!

Anonymous said...

This is ABSOLUTELY about power generation. We can make plenty of neutrons by compressing DT using other means. There is no novelty in doing it in lab unless it's precisely for the application of power generation. High pressure physics? Weapons research? Gimme a break. These are of such little importance given that we know how to build weapons.

Anonymous said...

If this was about stockpile stewardship, you wouldn't be using Z or NIF. you would be using explosively driven platforms to get the pressures you need, and your diagnostics would get blown up, but you get all the data you need, and it would still be much more cost effective than the big facilities. So it only makes sense to keep moving forward if your interest is in developing technology for power generation.

Anonymous said...

Rally? Then perhaps you can tell us exactly how much the power industry invested in NIF? or Z? Or even how much the power oganizations of DOE contributed compared to the nuclear weapons organizations? No? ICF was invented 1960s as a way to understand the basic workings of a bomb, just as was magnetically confined fusion a decade earlier. Weapons has supported it almost fully ever since. Wake up to the real world, innocent child.

Anonymous said...

Why the hell would the invest now when viable power generation is atleast twenty (more like thiry) years away? They don't lock in IP by investing now. They have no incentive. Gimme a break!

Anonymous said...

Here is a question for you: why do we need so much funding for Z when it is not the best-in-class facility? Maybe we need to scale down Z, and just learn from the russians - partner with them an work with them, using their facility. With NIF, you don't have that luxury.

Anonymous said...

It was never about power generation. It was about playing the game and keeping the money flowing so you can work on something you think is interesting, so you can write papers and attend conferences and gather honors and feel important, and so you're more likely to be willing to come to work at the lab on bomb-related issues. And it is big, big money, so it attracts local politicians because it pumps federal dollars into the local economy, and of course it attracts lab management support because it pumps federal dollars into the lab. This is what it is really about, folks. Always has been, since the program started in the '70s.

Anonymous said...

I would believe that it is "just about the papers and blah blah blah" if the shots were subsidized for academic researchers and collaborators as any normal big facility would have done. As this is not the case, I can't believe that this is "business as usual." There is a blatant unfair bias that NNSA shows towards towards Sandia.

Anonymous said...

Well since LLNL took a giant crap in NNSA's lap, and left them in a deeply embarrassing position, there isn't really much alternative at this point to turning towards Sandia. Sandia has a history of delivering on reasonable goals, while LLNL has a history of lying and hiding the truth to keep the money flowing. NNSA has no reason to pour more good money after bad, especially since the political support for NIF has evaporated. Nice job, Ed and George.

Anonymous said...

Look the Russians are doing Z better than we are. NIF is a unique one of a kind facility. The pay off for NIF could be much greater or could be small. The payoff for Z could small or zero. You do the math and it is clear what should be done...shut Z down and partner with someone else on that kind of technology and fully fund NIF for the next 10 years. After that we will have a much better picture as more cards will be one the table. Science is always a gamble, always has been always will and NIF really is the only high stakes game in town.

Anonymous said...

NIF will claim that they are capable of ignition based on renormalizing the codes to the 14 kJ design and extrapolating to a new ignition space. I expect this to be the conclusion of the PRL they try to publish.

Anonymous said...

Good gamblers know when to raise and when to fold. NNSA knows it is time to fold.

Anonymous said...

Compared to NIF, Sandia's Z machine is a skidmark on the underpants of society.

Anonymous said...

Z is not the best-in-class pulsed power facility. Far from it.

Anonymous said...

That is correct. If pulse power is a way forward, Z isn't it. Nor does SNL have the expertise (their capability today is derived completely from LLNL expertise). They really hate it when it's pointed out.

Anonymous said...

Bit like Henry Ford's corpse rising from the grave and shaking his bony fists at Honda, telling them they don't know a thing and it all derives from his 100 year old ideas.

Anonymous said...

I have posted before about this Sandia paranoia that seems to exist at LLNL. First I repeat that I am not and never have been connected with Sandia. I have watched though the relationship among the three labs for a number of decades. I have never seen that "They really hate it when it is pointed out" that their expertise derives from LLNL. Hardly true. Far from it. Right or wrong they and others feel that LLNL is going down the wrong track and they do not want to follow LLNL. One thing they will point to is that they got the deuterium EOS correct. Now do I believe in any of the fusion energy concepts at all, including magnetic fusion (ITER). No way and I do hold that against Sandia that they are pushing for that. But all fusion efforts are fantasies that are wasting money and careers. I am starting to suspect that the LLNL feelings toward Sandia come from fear.

Anonymous said...

That's not true. There has been a long-standing seething hatred of LLNL (particularly anything to laser applications for NIF) at Sandia, even at the management level, trickled down to the workers (who don't know why they are to hate LLNL and NIF).

Anonymous said...

It's because management at Sandia understands what LLNL is all about. Lies, hoarding resources, fratricide, and more lies. The Z-killing ideas coming out of NIF just add to the well-deserved hatred.

Anonymous said...

Why should Sandians care about LLNL's fratricide? And why haven't the Sandians come up with their "acceptable" version of the blob chart?

Anonymous said...

With Sandia, the desired conclusion comes first, then the reasonings that they can use to support their conclusion. They want to hate LLNL and NIF. So they find any reason to support that position. Why? They have some misplaced inferiority complex due to the fact that they are not a physics but rather an engineering lab. It's really a self-inflicted hatred that is set up to self-justify more hatred of their selected enemy (here, LLNL).

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Sandia cares a lot about the fratricide directed at them, since we're all in it together. As to physics versus engineering, I think the arrogance of that statement is illuminating. All the excellent physicists at Z, including at least several LLNL expats, would laugh and think that's soooo typical.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to believe that those "blob charts" are still around after 25 years, showing that first Nova and now NIF can do everything better than anything else. They were the most laughable egregious hyperbole ever.

Anonymous said...

If Sandia wants to whine about the current WCI blob chart, they have had every opportunity to point out the "errors" and even put out their own. I guess Sandia can't put their money where their mouth is.

Anonymous said...

How can LLNL direct fraticide at Sandia? The fathers of weapons physics are at LANL and LLNL.

You Sandians are really delusional about your place in the weapons complex

Anonymous said...

Soon there will be no LLNL, there will only be a much smaller NNSA laser lab at the site. Weapons physics and related research moves to LANL, Sandia picks up most of the small WFO projects and keeps Z going strong, and former-LLNL gets the skeleton of NIF and related technology.

Anonymous said...

Fantasies of the covetous, small-minded and insecure

Anonymous said...

Matzen for the new LLNL director!

Anonymous said...

"And delivering hundreds of precisely arranged laser beams from a giant stadium-size facility, at 10 Hz yet, onto a stream of perfectly layered targets fired into exactly the right place at the same 10 Hz, isn't also laughable? Come now, this is not and has never been about power generation."

As a big laser guy I can tell you that some parts of this are actually very easy. As far as the laser is concerned, with better than 10 picosecond timing accuracy between the beam lines, the "flying" cryogenic capsule is basically standing still at target chamber center, even if it's flying at several hundred meters per second. Target tracking, laser pointing and simultaneous firing are not the problem.

Anonymous said...

Target tracking, laser pointing and simultaneous firing are not the problem......nor is engineering and building a 15 Hz diode-pumped solid-state laser driver in the 2.4 MJ class, harmonically converted from the IR to the UV. Challenging, yes, but doable with todays laser and optics technology.

Anonymous said...

You guys are continuing to focus just on the laser issues, an attitude that continues the unbalanced NIC campaign. Even at the NIF rep rate, there are severe problems with getting a quality target. Examples, cracks in the ice layer, surface imperfections, voids in the Be, etc. And having a precise orientation of the target. And all this happening in the debris of the previous targets and the 1 GW power production. And remember to keep that ice layer happy at 18 K.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. The problem is the target. Of course you can overcome a lot by cranking the power up. But the getting dirt cheap targets is a real challenge. That being said, the purpose of nif has and remains weapons science, and in that arena it smokes (pun intended) Z.

Anonymous said...

The problem is worse than getting dirt cheap targets. The targets are not of good enough quality at any price. And how many times have we heard that we just need a bigger hammer? The selling of NIF was in no way just for weapons science. One can easily argue that the main focus was fusion energy. Go to the web and find congressional testimony, reports of review committees, conference talks, propaganda on the LLNL web site, the selling of LIFE, etc. It is also quite easy to argue that Z has easily surpassed the lasers on quality EOS data. This blog has had ample evidence of this.

Anonymous said...

Optics damage alone would destroy the concept. The entire system, all of it, needs to be able to deal with 10 Hz in a continuous high-yield environment, including mundane things like maintenance. From a system perspective it's insane even if one can solve many of the major problems in isolation.

And then there's the target. It takes like a day to craft a suitable ice layer, with enormous personal attention from many people. It's not remotely realistic to do this at 10 Hz. One could imagine other designs, wetted foams for example, but those are just ideas and there would be many more problems. They would certainly require even bigger lasers if they are to ignite and burn, for many reasons including the presence of relatively high-Z material in the fuel. And bigger lasers and lower gains from bigger targets starts to look like a bomb, where you save on the rep rate but you have to deal with a giant bomb in the heart of your power plant.

Not going to happen even if NIF manages to demonstrate ignition. Weapons physics justifications, maybe, but not power generation.

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with the physics. Does a larger laser make the plasma instability problem or any of the other physics problems harder or easier to deal with for a NIF-like target? Engineering issues I'm not convinced are show stoppers. Just because we gant make perfect targets today doesn't mean we can't make them in 10 years. But I'd like to know whether there is a justification or other benefits for continued laser science and technology development that builds on NIF. I do have to say that even without the power production application, NIF is still a very unique facility. In my opinion, i think it is a waste to have it so heavily dedicated to stockpile stewardship work. It should be utilized heavily by the academic community with the cost shouldered by NNSA.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Ed go on record as stating that he could have a working prototype of a NIF-technology-derived power plant within X years , or something to that effect? The oversell was obviously bad. But he's gone now. Does the baby (NIF facility) still need to be thrown out with the bath water (Ed?). These calls for NIF to be punished based on the sins of those no longer leading the effort... Sounds like a festering grudge and petty vindictiveness on the part of NNSA. Are the LLNL scientists not putting forth a good-faith effort to understand the surprise observation that the experiments had a very different outcome from the models? Isn't these surprise observations that helps drive science, through the generation and testing of new hypotheses for the physical processes underlying ignition? Just because you think such and such joe blow is a liar or used car salesman, doesn't diminish the value of the facility or to the experiments performed so far.

Anonymous said...

You can't make perfect targets that look anything like current targets at 10 Hz, the idea is DOA by six orders of magnitude. The notion of a million parallel production lines feeding into one target gun is silly too. Some other concept, maybe, but every other concept will have drawbacks that will push the laser to be bigger and bigger so the target looks more and more like a bomb. That's the problem with the NIF scale of ICF, it is delicately balanced on a pinhead surrounded by cliffs with minimal (well, really negative based on experiments) margin. To buy margin you invest in scale, but the result looks more Telleresque at each step. At some point, perhaps we are long past that point, you start scratching your head and wondering what you could achieve spending that money on something else. Even something seemingly crazy like a giant focusing mirror in space, sending sunlight down to earth to vaporize seawater and make steam to drive turbines. Of course none of this detracts from the scientific value of the ICF effort, or from whatever weapons applications there might be, but useful power generation will always be a fantasy. A more realistic approach would funnel that money into fission power including reprocessing, building a nuclear grid that powers electric transportation.

Anonymous said...

How do you extrapolate today's lack of engineering capabilities to limitations many decades down the line? I understand if there are physical impossibilities that cannot be overcome, like plasma instabilities. But to use the lack of engineering capabilities or material limitations today to justify your argument that a technology is impossible tomorrow is disingenuous. You throw in the word "telleresque" which means nothing in this context because ITER is far more "telleresque." But it moves forward because it is a high risk high knowledge return endeavor with some chance for that knowledge to better inform the feasibility and practicality of power production many decades down the line. Is the same not true for NIF or Z for that matter? Or do you have smoking gun evidence that there are ceryain physical limitations that simply cannot be overcome, making it a fool's errand to even think about power production?

Anonymous said...

The whole effort is not remotely close to engineering, that was the fundamental failure of the NIC and the people who led it. If there is ever a serious objective "lessons learned", that should be the conclusion - engineers and salesmen leading and directing a really hard bluesky research effort is a recipe for failure, and the bigger the effort the more spectacular the failure. And ITER is not building a periodic bomb, which would be Telleresque, they are trying to build a continuous power source. Of course they have their own issues to sort, different ones. Talk of power production based on NIF results should have remained very vague and futuristic, and not turned into a "life" program - that was a mistake unless you are 90%+ convinced you will succeed with NIC, and if you are then you don't understand it or the history of ICF. NIF has always really been a weapons physics machine, and ICF is part of that portfolio but only one part. Ignition is an even smaller part.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. It is premature to have The life program today, and the oversell led to distrust and piss poor expectations management. And power production should never have been a pillar for NIF. The experiments generates observations that could help inform the plausibility of some future power application. But Ed is gone and you still have experiments generating important observations. Are your complaints really only about the sins of the past? I'm more keen to learn about physics limitations for the future, particularly related to a larger laser. Is it a plausible hypothesis to assume that a larger laser afford us the ability to use less than perfect targets? Is it a plausible hypothesis to asdume that a larger laser might allow for a simpler target more amenable to future manufacturing capability? I'd like to know what gets harder and what gets easier with the bigger system.

Anonymous said...

I think any question, no matter how objective, about NIF, is going to be interpreted as an invitation for Ed bashing. This crowd is really good about complaining about the past but not quite as good with giving you objective answers you are seeking.

Anonymous said...

No one left in NIF to be objective anyways. Understand, the people running the organization by and large were handpicked by Ed. You won't get objectivity until you get rid of the humbuggers and itinerant hucksters and curative peddlers and mystics who have stared too long at the sun, and hit the reset button.

Anonymous said...

January 7, 2014 at 10:18 AM said...

I'm more keen to learn about physics limitations for the future, particularly related to a larger laser.

I don't know all the pushes and pulls, but I'm sure there are people who have looked at this in detail even if there isn't a lot published. At least two good reasons here, one is politics and the other is classification and reference to "down hole" data, which wraps back around to politics.

But in general, a bigger driver allows a bigger, slower implosion of more fuel, and this buys margin for things like target imperfections, mispointing, etc., as well as physics margin for things not working quite the way your idealized simulations predict. With a bigger laser driver, pushbacks include a bigger hohlraum with longer laser paths through plasma, obviously the bigger laser, and much higher per-shot yield so you have a harder time dealing with the huge pulses of neutrons, shrapnel, maybe EMP, etc. I doubt anyone can really say where the optimum might be for power production, we would need some "up hole" successful data points and we don't have any. At least not yet.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, let's build a bigger laser. The American public is fully behind that -- another $6B - $10B out of their pockets to support a couple thousand fairy dust peddlers in the Golden State.

Somebody get a rope!

Anonymous said...

Just cancel most of the unneeded parts of the b61 LEP and you can buy the next big laser. We need that b61lep like we need a hole in our heads.

Anonymous said...

We need that b61lep like we need a hole in our heads.

January 10, 2014 at 4:58 AM

Says someone who obviously has never read the annual reliability reports.

Anonymous said...

Says someone who obviously has never read the annual reliability reports.


January 10, 2014 at 8:26 AM

Whyy bother? All we need to read are the Directors' annual letters to the President reassuring him that the stockpile is reliable and safe.

Anonymous said...

Whyy bother? All we need to read are the Directors' annual letters to the President reassuring him that the stockpile is reliable and safe.

January 11, 2014 at 12:28 PM

If you have access to the letters, which have been classified SRD regardless of content since around 2006, you have access to the reports. I suspect you have access to neither.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again -- Mr. "If you knew what I know" is back.

Anonymous said...

Right, no one will support building a (say) 10x bigger laser, on the basis of, "We were wrong about Shiva, we were wrong about Nova, and it turned out we were wrong about NIF too after we increased the energy 50x over Nova, but we promise we have it right this time! Just another factor of 10, that will do it, the simulations say so!" NIF is the last in the chain, if there is ever a bigger laser it will be a large international effort like ITER. And even the Europeans probably don't have the collective stomach for that. The only thing that might change that is a real ignition demo on NIF, but that seems out of reach without flood of new money from DOE.

Anonymous said...

I think the point now for NIF is to showcase the 14 KJ design and its designer. I'm sure management is focused on getting the results published and seeing if the physicists involved can get any awards. I don't think they even care about ignition at this point.

I haven't seen any press releases so I assume that the 14 KJ is near the upper limit?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know. It tickles alpha heating, which is a good useful step, but that route doesn't lead anywhere.

Anonymous said...

" NIF is the last in the chain, if there is ever a bigger laser it will be a large international effort like ITER"

Give me $50M for 5 years, and my choice of 10 LLNL laser scientists, and we will have a 20 MJ UV laser design that the Chinese can build for $5M in China.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,

$5B not $5M

Anonymous said...

Even China isn't likely to jump on the opportunity to piss away 5B that turns into 20B on a giant laser.

Anonymous said...

Note again people, the obsessive focus of the big hammer people. Just give them another 20B and they will save the world. And if it all fails again, it will not be their fault. That will lie at the feet of those peasants, the target designers, engineers, and material scientists. And of course all of the others responsible for the practicalities of energy production. But the world will have a beautiful,gleaming, engineering marvel, like the pyramids and the space station. I do like the pyramids though and there is tourist money.

Anonymous said...

Where are all the creative target designers. I guess they all retired. Big targets for big lasers !

Anonymous said...

Tourist tickets and fees from movie producers could be a new life line. They could even pump down an actor (well maybe a stuntman) in a space suit inside the target chamber, for added realism in certain scifi movies. Not many vacuum chambers big enough for that.

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