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Saturday, June 18, 2016

NIF may never ignite

NIF may never ignite, DOE admits:

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/10.1063/PT.5.1076

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

orly?

Anonymous said...

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Anonymous said...

From Bodner, "“Basically [the report] is confirmation of what I predicted in 1995. It took the community 21 years, and many billions of dollars, to vindicate my predictions. So sad.”

He sound's a lot like Trump commenting on Iraq. Yes, so sad ! And, we should spent another $3 to 4 billion dollars building a KrF laser for direct drive that will also fail to achieve ignition.

Why would you think that direct drive would have any reduced requirements for target and irradiation "smoothness" as compared to indirect drive ?

Anonymous said...


But NIF trained thousands of people which are the foundation to the next generation of leaders at the labs. In order to judge NIF you have to consider everything about NIF, and all the contributions that come from NIF. History will show that NIF has been a great success when seen from the correct perspective.

Anonymous said...

Direct drive has very tight requirements for drive smoothness, but has a big efficiency advantage. Indirect drive, you throw away a factor of 10 in your laser energy converting it to smooth x-rays, so if you can beat the laser smoothness problem you can couple much more energy into the target. That's the theory. In practice there will be other challenges. Maybe it really is a safer bet, and the NIF should have been built as a direct drive KrF facility, but given the highly visible failure at the NIF, that well is full of urine and will yield no more water. In 5 years, people will stop talking about ignition and gain in ICF, so now is the time to re-invent the NIF and spin it into a great success despite never achieving ignition and gain.

Anonymous said...

The NIF EOS stuff is complete garbage. The NNSA can't fall back on that to justify NIF.

The real tragedy here is that Omar Hurricane will not win the Nobel Prize in physics for the high-foot break-even scam.

Anonymous said...

I assume that all the socially controlled Livermore scientists can simply be told that the NNSA is evil and NIF will ignite due to recent simulations performed by some "golden boy". Can you believe that people devoted their entire careers to this garbage?

Anonymous said...

The NIF EOS stuff is complete garbage. The NNSA can't fall back on that to justify NIF.

The real tragedy here is that Omar Hurricane will not win the Nobel Prize in physics for the high-foot break-even scam.

June 19, 2016 at 9:59 AM

Even if NIF did get ignition it would not be something worth a Nobel prize so why even mention it?

Anonymous said...

So Boner is 1 for 2. A wild guess on NIF and a fiasco during the 2007 -2008 contact renegotiations.

F**k that pig. 2nd most hated man in National Lab history.

LLNL
1976-2011

Anonymous said...

"I assume that all the socially controlled Livermore scientists can simply be told that the NNSA is evil and NIF will ignite due to recent simulations performed by some "golden boy". Can you believe that people devoted their entire careers to this garbage? "

This depends on what one means by "careers". If you mean a high paying secure job than these people did have career and a very nice one at that. Is there some other definition of career that means something?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile NIF will advance science with 300+ diagnosed target shots this year,... again.

Anonymous said...

"So Boner is 1 for 2. A wild guess on NIF"

A wild guess? I seem to recall that many people said NIF was going to fail. You can even read old LANL blog from 2005-2006 and see posts talking about how NIF cannot work and was never really intended to work. It was just suppose to be big, and big things get funded. Boner may well be a jerk and wrong about most things but he did not make a wild guess about NIF.

Anonymous said...

Is it fair to say that an avalanche of reality has wiped out the LLNL accent to the peak of the Mount Everest of fusion?


https://www.llnl.gov/news/climbing-mountain-fusion-ignition-interview-omar-hurricane

Anonymous said...

Years ago the NIF EOS people fabricated a 20 Mbar isentrope of tantalum, complete with a nonexistent phase transition at 3 Mbar.
I wonder what new fabrications they will give us soon?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile NIF will advance science with 300+ diagnosed target shots this year,... again.

June 19, 2016 at 12:44 PM

Read that and weep naysayers, not 300 but 300+, science is being advanced and discoveries are made at a rate that humanity has not seen before and may never witness again, few of us will ever do even one partial advancement of science in our life time let alone 300+ advancements, amazing, the mind boggles and at such a scale of scientific advancements, you may be forgiven if you do not understand the grand scale and meaning of what 300+ target shots a year means, that number alone is just beyond all human comprehension and it is nothing like any of could have ever imaged before. Think about it an individual cannot have 300 children, have 300 college degrees and no certainly no individual can ever achieve 300 breakthroughs, the greatest authors cannot write 300 books, the greatest musical genius cannot compose 300 songs, so the number 300 in terms of grand accomplishments is just beyond what we can ever hope to truly understand but not only does NIF understand this... IT DOES IT!. This is NIF, this IS, this IS what NIF does, this IS what NIF was designed to do, this IS what science looks like, and this IS what science on grandest scale humanity has ever seen looks like. Wow, folks we are in a very special time so embrace and live the moment. 300+,...300+ breakthrough a year! MAGNIFICENT!!! LUX LUX LUX

Anonymous said...

Stay off the drugs...

Anonymous said...

More shots do not equal advancement. The high-foot shots did not give ignition, hence the DOE verdict.

Rochester Omega likes to brag about the number of shots they do every year. Must be a laser ICF thing.

Anonymous said...

About 285 of the 300 are gold disk timing and flat field shots, fired by the dozen whether they are needed or not. It is no secret how they pushed the shot rate up.

Anonymous said...

"and this IS what science on grandest scale humanity has ever seen looks like. Wow, folks we are in a very special time so embrace and live the moment. 300+,...300+ breakthrough a year! MAGNIFICENT!!! LUX LUX LUX"

I support NIF and helped design, build, and activate it, however, I think the author above is chugging far to many Expresso shots on any shot day.

300+ shots a year has a huge human "burn rate" associated with it. I'm glad I retired, so I won't have that expected heart attack and/or stroke before hitting my mid-60's.

Anonymous said...

If the very near future, NIF will be just like B-431, pigeons and and a guard cave!

Anonymous said...

OMG...NIF doesn't work as it was sold. Now there is a shocker. Perhaps it's time to shut NIF down. And take LLNL with it.

Anonymous said...

Stay the course, Verdon and Goldstein!

Anonymous said...

>achieve 300 breakthroughs,

Hows does a single shot equal a scientific breakthrough?

Anonymous said...

Every utterance from these people is considered a scientific breakthrough, at least within Livermore.
It's called narcissistic personality disorder.

Anonymous said...

Donald, is that you?

Anonymous said...


300 shots, 300!


King Leonidas: Give them nothing! But take from them everything!
Messenger: This is madness!!
King Leonidas: Madness? THIS IS NIF!!!

300 vs 10000


Anonymous said...

Mockery is the redoubt of the incompetent.

Forward.

Anonymous said...



Satire is, by definition, offensive. It is meant to make us feel uncomfortable. It is meant to make us scratch our heads, think, do a double-take, and then think again. Maajid Nawaz

Anonymous said...

Revenge of the C+ students, level F estimate...plus or minus 50%! Mark up 500% and deadlines....we don't need no stinkin' deadlines!! And the little park in front of NIF with the knee high fence...what a joke. Boss, da plane, da plane!

Anonymous said...

June 21, 2016 at 7:04 AM:
Maybe it's just revenge of reality? C+ students or A+ students, its all just a big scam where scientists make impossible promises to the tax payer in order to rake in the funding for their real goals.

In the private sector, you can make ridiculous promises that don't make scientific sense (e.g. Theranos), but sooner or later, investors and the market will make sure your crash and burn. In the gov't, you can continue that way indefinitely. Naturally, that does attract the C+ students, but its really besides the point.

Anonymous said...

Just really, really bad news for NIF

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/06/giant-us-fusion-laser-might-never-achieve-goal-report-concludes

The natural thing is going to be for them to pivot to EOS which doesn't work either, but can be fabricated at some level.
The scientific community needs to put the last nail in this coffin.

Anonymous said...


Criticism is the last resort of scoundrels.

Anonymous said...

NIF needed more criticism early on.

Anonymous said...

"NIF needed to be built in the 2020's"

Maybe late 2020's early 2030's, that seems like a better time frame.

Anonymous said...

NIF got plenty of criticism early on, what it didn't get was competent scientific leadership as it neared completion and the NIC. That would not have changed the technical outcome, but it would have changed the optics and avoided a public relations disaster. All was lost long before Moses lined up the governor, a senator, a congresswoman, and several other big names in a grand ceremony that sealed the fate of the NIF and Moses himself.

Anonymous said...

NIF is one of the greatest scientific instruments ever created in human history, a gift from the minds of the most creative scientists of our time.

Anonymous said...

Criticism is the last resort of scoundrels.

June 21, 2016 at 5:40 PM

So in order to not be a scoundrel, one must accept absolutely anything anyone says or does uncritically? HaHaHaHaHaHa!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, it was not lack of criticism or peer review that lead to the failure of the NIC. It was the inability in a timely manner of simulating the details of the laser-target and laser-plasma physics interactions that hurt the various shot campaigns. Decisions where made from shot to shot that where based on best guesses by the "guru's". Sometimes even the best guru's get it wrong. Simulations, if any, were after the fact and in some cases years late.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't have helped. They were and are so very far from an ignitable regime, that more wrong simulations containing insufficient physics and poor knowledge of initial conditions (can you say, tent?) wouldn't have tipped any cows. Campbell had it right, it should have been viewed as a 10-year effort involving many, many, many shots to explore the parameter regime and find the happy vectors.

Anonymous said...

"containing insufficient physics"

Why the hell would they need physics for NIF?

Anonymous said...

While selling the NIF in the 1990, Mike Campbell promised an ignition test within a few years after the end of NIF construction. Now he tells Science Magazine that he always thought it would take a decade. Was Campbell making a false statement to Washington in the 1990s, or a false statement now to Science Magazine?

Anonymous said...

"Top U.S. Laser Expert Admits Lack of a Ph.D. and Resigns"

Published: August 31, 1999

"The director of an installation intended to house the world's most powerful lasers resigned his post on Friday after a flurry of anonymous faxes to officials at his California laboratory and at the Department of Energy in Washington disclosed that he lacked a Ph.D. degree..."

"Mr. Campbell is recognized as one of the world's leading experts in ultra-high-energy lasers."


"Mr. Campbell will be replaced by Dr. George Miller...Livermore's associate Dr. Miller is expected to undertake a far-reaching evaluation of the status of the National Ignition Facility, including rumors of cost overruns..."

"Jeff Richardson, a laboratory spokesman, said yesterday that Mr. Campbell had falsely allowed the laboratory to believe he had a doctorate from Princeton University..."

Anonymous said...

June 24, 2016 at 8:39 AM

That is the LANL cowboy culture again.

Anonymous said...

That is the LANL cowboy culture again.

June 24, 2016 at 12:06 PM

What is? A story about a disgraced LLNL employee? Or are you already drunk at noon on Friday?

Anonymous said...

Lindl knifing Campbell in the back was the beginning of the end, because it allowed Moses to take over.

Anonymous said...

It was an heroic effort on the part of Lab management (Moses, Miller, others) to get the NIF project back on track and completed, given the interference from the DOE. Mike Campbell could not have gotten it done.

Anonymous said...

Campbell blew it by digging a deeper hole than he could climb out of, and he had to step aside after selling the project in Washington and getting it going. But no one else could have gotten it off the ground, and that was his key contribution as the founder of NIF. The disaster came later, when Moses presumed himself the smartest person on the planet and took over micromanaging the scientific effort behind ICF, as well as the laser construction project that he was qualified to lead.

Anonymous said...

Moses was extremely overconfident, but it was because he made the mistake of trusting the ICF physics leadership over everyone else. Edwards was the ICF Program Director during the NIC.

Anonymous said...

Edwards came in late though, under the wing of Lindl. Long after Lindl had had Moses' ear, telling him for years that it is connect the dots and bag the prize, because the codes say so. I doubt there is anything Edwards could have done to change fate, though he too had a trusting belief in the codes. The lions share of blame actually goes to Miller, I think, for letting Moses get so far out of anyone's control.

In any case, it is done, NIF will never ignite anything. Not least because there isn't enough money to fund enough relevant experiments with relevant diagnostics. But we can anticipate the result after 5 more years of work: "We have not uncovered anything to prove that ignition on the NIF is impossible" And that will even be a true statement.

Anonymous said...


If LANL was so useful than it should have said something about NIF. No it is all about cowboy culture. I am dropping the mic now!

Anonymous said...

Defense programs in DOE (and later NNSA) would not LANL people say anything that contradicted the DC party line. NIF was a criminal conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

If LANL was so useful than it should have said something about NIF. No it is all about cowboy culture. I am dropping the mic now!

June 25, 2016 at 10:46 PM

Jas Mercer-Smith, John Pedicini, Gary Wall, Bruce Trent, etc., and many other premier weapon designers at LANL, stated for years that NIF was useless to the weapon program and in general would fail. Unfortunately, Mike Anastasio, the guy with the toupee, Bret Knapp, and now Charlie McMillan have ignored their input for many years. I wonder why? "At Livermore…."

P.S. Don't let the mic fall on your toes!

Anonymous said...

LANL floated with the currents, and so did the rest of the complex. But NIF is far from useless to the weapons programs, that is a cowboy kind of comment. It will not ignite anything, but the weapons program is far more than that and doesn't require igniting anything.

Anonymous said...

It's true. If not for NIF, LLNL would not have a place at the weapons program table. As it is, they own the silverware, the candlesticks, the china, and one hell of a lot of useless, but nonetheless very expensive crystal.

John M. Pedicini said...

Although my previous comments have yet to be posted on this blog, I will try again. Poster June 26, 2016, 2:14 PM is generally correct. However the statement attributed to me is overly broad. I stated, at the NAS review in the mid 90s, that NIF would not ignite and that it was not relevant to primaries. NIF was simply too small. I did not judge it as a HEDP facility or state that it was useless to the weapons program. Secondary designers should speak to that. The subsequent reduction in energy from 10 MJ to 2 MJ did not make it more likely to ignite or make it more relevant to primaries. There are only two within the LANL weapons program, that I know, who publicly predicted it would not work, I was one. Many competent nuclear weapon designers at both LLNL and LANL were, at best, skeptical, but were afraid to speak out. There was incredible pressure to either sign up or shut up.

As in all blog postings by me, I sign my name.

John M. Pedicini

Anonymous said...



The past is the past, NIF is built and is a fine facility, a truly beautiful battlecruiser, it is the HMS Hood of the NNSA complex. We should not sneer but be proud and let our ship sail into battle with the forces of nature.

Anonymous said...

Even the primary irrelevance is debatable. There is Pu EOS for example, and already some very interesting results. There is some history of big lasers generating bogus EOS data, but that is a learning process as well as a cultural problem specific to LLNL. It's an experimental facility, and when you include the critical mission of training weapons designers with real data, as well as training experimental and diagnostic development scientists, it has huge value. $5+ billion dollars of value, well, that's hard to say.

Anonymous said...

Laser EOS has been fully discredited. There's an absence of papers in the scientific literature on isentropic compression with NIF because their results were bogus. They predicted a non existent tantalum phase transition and circulated a 20 Mbar isentrope which has since disappeared. The NNSA relies on Sandia's Z Machine to do high quality isentropic compression experiments, including Pu. They (NIF) are now claiming to have fixed some of their problems by using a copper ablator. Of course, now their results suddenly overlay perfectly with the Z data and theory which is highly suspicious. Again, nothing being published yet.

If NIF could really do EOS, the Z machine would disappear.

Anonymous said...

The past is the past, NIF is built and is a fine facility, a truly beautiful battlecruiser, it is the HMS Hood of the NNSA complex. We should not sneer but be proud and let our ship sail into battle with the forces of nature.

June 26, 2016 at 8:39 PM

It looks like the HMS NIF just ran into natures Bismark.

Anonymous said...

I believe this John M. Pedicici made some conclusions based on faulty scope data from a UGT.
These were presented to a JASON committee, but later shown to be wrong by LLNL scientists.
As always, I sign my name.

Bruno Rossi

Anonymous said...

Were there conceptual designs with significantly more beams on target than the 192 beams NIF was built with, and if so, how was the 192 beam design argued adequate for ignition over other higher beam count designs?

Anonymous said...

NIF was built with the energy it has because that's as much as could be afforded in the early/mid 90's when the concept was floated. In fact even that was far more than could be afforded, and a lot was mortgaged to finish NIF with 2-ish MJ after the initial cost estimates were shown to be fantasy. The justifying simulations came later, with a great deal of optimism built in. The history of fusion energy simply repeated itself, but on a bigger scale with a bigger machine. If they consistently stop talking about ignition on the NIF and hold up the weapons physics applications, and maybe change the name to something other than the NIF, all will eventually be forgiven and forgotten.

Anonymous said...

By computer model today, with NIF shot results included, is NIF target energy short by an order of magnitude, less, or more?

Anonymous said...

I think their best simulations still predict ignition and many MJ yield if they get everything right. But the simulations are bogus and are not predictive tools, that much at least is understood now. That is why they are being given five more years to see if ignition is "possible" on NIF. They claimed they had that question answered a couple decades ago.

Anonymous said...

NIF is, and always was, a scientific pyramid scheme.

Anonymous said...

If NIF cannot achieve ignition, why do we need Rochester Omega, the special olympics of fusion?

Anonymous said...

"If NIF cannot achieve ignition, why do we need Rochester Omega, the special olympics of fusion?"

They're our friends and we like them, that's why !!!

Anonymous said...

Amazing how this backwater blog can go many days with no posts anywhere, but let someone start a NIF thread and all the usual suspects come out of the woodwork with all the usual tired comments and arguments. Lots of unresolved emotional issues here. Who knew PTSD is rampant in laser science?

Anonymous said...

The 8:07am NIF guardian is as frustrated as the cat trying to bury a turd on a marble floor.

Anonymous said...

June 28, 2016 at 8:48 AM

You couldn't be more wrong. Suggest you read the comment again.

Anonymous said...

"Backwater blog", "suspects out of the woodwork", unresolved emotional issues", I suggest you try another approach to squelch a discussion on the NIF failure to reach ignition, or paddle your way to another blog to your liking if this NIF discussion is unnerving. I doubt you will find the echo chamber you seek.

Anonymous said...

No attempt to "squelch" anything, only to point out the dreary sameness, and silliness, of the never ending NIF "discussion."

Anonymous said...

The NIF design was originally 240 beams. But several cost crunches reduced it to 192. At the time, 1.8MJ was thought to be just barely possible out of the 192 beams. 1.8MJ was also at the very bottom of the "predicted" required energy. Yes, we now know the computer simulations that provided those numbers were entirely wrong.

Anonymous said...

With something so poorly grounded and never done before, a reasonable margin would have been 5. So, 9 MJ instead of 1.8 might have been enough. That is 960 beams, so probably even 240 would have achieved exactly the same result that 192 did.

Anonymous said...

The original LLNL Laser Megajoule conceptual design set a goal of 10 MJ in the UV. This was near the end of the Halite/Centurion underground tests. So we where definitely worried about margin. I don't remember the number of beam lines or the beam aperture. However, we where looking a plasma-electrode Pockels cell optical switches at the 1 x 1 meter size.

Anonymous said...

NIF would have been a pretty good facility at 100 MJ. However it would have been bad for the houses nearby.

Anonymous said...

NIF would have been a great facility at 100MJ and have no effect on the nearby houses.

Anonymous said...

Gain would go up, a factor of 3 maybe? So, 20 MJ from 1.8 MJ goes to 4 GJ from 100 MJ, 200x larger neutron yield. Not a nuclear bomb, but NIF was not designed to generate than many neutrons. Might not be a hazard for nearby houses, but certainly a hazard for lab employees and anyone who might want to go near the facility after a shot. Better off building it at NTS.

Anonymous said...

4 GJ is about one ton of nuclear energy release. How would that be compatible with a nuclear test moratorium?

Anonymous said...

The CTBT was never ratified in the U.S., and probably never will be. So, we can define it however we like. One of several good reasons to never ratify it.

Anonymous said...

If NIF target chamber were able to contain one ton of equivalent HE energy, it would be useful for containing small fission explosions as well. And much more relevant.

Anonymous said...

192 beam lines at the 1 x 1 meter aperture/beam as compared to the 40 x 40 cm aperture of NIF per beam (actually less because of edge-apodization required by diffraction effects), would put us in the range of 10 to 12 MJ in the UV.

Anonymous said...

1 ton of neutrons is a lot different from 1 ton of HE, fortunately, because of the way the energy deposits. Still, just scaling by R^2, the chamber would have to be about 400 feet in diameter. As large as the entire NIF building, including the laser bays, and almost as tall as the Washington Monument. Lots of G$.

Anonymous said...

Bigger than the yin-yang magnets? Bigger than Livermore's first shot tower? I'm starting to see a pattern emerging...

Anonymous said...

1 ton fusion = 1/405 mole (1.5e21) of 14 MeV neutrons. That would produce a lot of nasty activation in the target chamber. Not compatible with vessel maintenance by humans.

Anonymous said...

So you don't really want a 100 MJ laser driver (in the UV), more like 10 to 15 MJ. The target chamber dimensions and construction have to be realistic for a facility maintained by humans that can cost less than $10B. Correct?

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