April 13, 2017

Gillibrand Urges Senate Appropriations Committee To Boost Federal Funding For Omega Laser Facility At University Of Rochester- Pushes For $75 Million In 2018 Funding Bill To Advance Research & Development

Gillibrand also Advocating for $68 Million in this Year’s Appropriations Bill for the OMEGA Laser Facility; Funds Would Help U of R Continue Critical Programs That Protect The Nation and Maintain Over 300 Jobs in New York. LLE Has Attracted Almost $2 Billion to New York State; Serves as the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Largest University-Based Program

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged federal appropriators to include $75 million in federal funding for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. Gillibrand is also advocating for the inclusion of $68 million in the final FY 2017 appropriations bill as Congress aims to fund the government at the end of April. This funding would provide the necessary resources to support the Lab’s research programs, operations, and experiments on OMEGA, which is the second most powerful ultraviolet fusion laser in the world. This funding level is consistent with a five-year Cooperative Agreement between National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) to meet scientific milestones in NNSA’s ten-year strategic plan for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) in support of stockpile stewardship.

Gillibrand has long fought to ensure the Rochester laser lab has the funding it needs to maintain hundreds of good-paying, local jobs and continue its cutting-edge research. In the FY 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, Gillibrand is working to ensure $68 million is included in any final funding package advanced by Congress at the end of this month. Absent this level of funding, the Lab could be forced to lay off scientists and engineers, and reduce their capacity and partnerships with national laboratories.

“The University of Rochester remains at the forefront of our nation’s quest to find affordable and efficient sources of energy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Providing these federal funds would facilitate the resources needed to advance this growing industry, strengthen our national security, create jobs, and help launch new start-up companies. I will continue to work hard to include this funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 and 2018 appropriations bills to ensure our nation’s edge in research remains in Rochester as we continue to develop a thriving industry for growing businesses of the future.”

“I express my gratitude to Senator Gillibrand for her outstanding leadership and continued support for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics,” said University of Rochester’s President Joel Seligman. “Thanks to her efforts, the LLE is the largest university-based U.S. Department of Energy program in the entire country and home to one of the largest, most powerful and capable laser systems in the world.  Continued federal investment will allow the LLE to strengthen national security, advance the nation’s scientific leadership, foster innovation, retain and attract talent, and grow our economy.”

Established in 1970, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester is a unique national resource for research and education in science and technology and a major asset of the University not found at any other university in the country. Both the Rochester area and the University have a history of innovation that provides a technologically sophisticated environment for LLE within a broad scientific community.

LLE is home to the OMEGA laser, which is the second most powerful ultraviolet fusion laser in the world, and the OMEGA EP (Extended Performance) laser, a high-intensity, high-energy, short-pulse laser, and serves as the principal laser research facility for three national laboratories. The center’s primary goal is to investigate the interaction of intense radiation with matter and to support the National Ignition Campaign (NIC) using OMEGA and OMEGA EP as well as validate advanced concepts for ICF to be used on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in order to demonstrate ignition and energy gain. It is a vital component of our nation’s scientific capital and leadership, and key to strategic work on an independent energy future.

More than 300 individuals are currently involved at OMEGA, and LLE’s National Laser User’s Facility hosts more than 400 scientists from around the world to carry out fundamental research, training, and education. Since its inception, the LLE has attracted almost $2 billion to New York State to support cutting-edge research. Through its groundbreaking research, the LLE provides a strong stimulus to the regional economy as a source of new start-up companies and a driver of New York’s high-technology sector.

The full text of the Senator’s letter is included below:

 

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein:

 

Thank you for your support for including $68,000,000 for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) in S.2804, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill (Title III, Atomic Energy Defense Activities, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Weapons Activities, Research, Development, Technology, and Engineering, Inertial Confinement Fusion Ignition and High Yield Campaign). As you finalize a FY 2017 conference agreement, I strongly urge you to include this facility-specific funding level for OMEGA. Absent funding at this level, the LLE could be forced to lay off scientists and engineers and reduce the number of experiments and partnerships with NNSA laboratories and other external users, which would result in missing critical scientific milestones in support of stockpile stewardship.

I also request your continued support for the OMEGA Laser Facility and provide $75,000,000 in the FY 2018 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. This level of funding is consistent with a five-year Cooperative Agreement between NNSA and the LLE and allows the lab to meet scientific milestones in NNSA’s ten-year strategic plan for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) in support of stockpile stewardship. The $75,000,000 in FY 2018 would provide the necessary resources to support the LLE’s research and academic programs to help maintain the nation’s stockpile and continue to train the future workforce. In particular, this level of funding allows the LLE to support facility operations and experiments on OMEGA to make progress on the three most viable approaches to fusion and support the research programs of the three NNSA labs.

Maintaining U.S. leadership in this field of science is critical to avoid technological surprise as other countries invest in similar capabilities. The LLE would also be able to provide the needed scientific and technical support for the 400 users from the 55 universities and over 35 centers and national laboratories that use OMEGA annually to conduct more than 2,100 experiments in cutting-edge research. This level of funding would also accelerate development and deployment of state-of-the-art diagnostics to improve measurements and collect better data on the behavior of matter under extreme conditions. Better diagnostics would fully leverage the capabilities of existing facilities.

The LLE’s OMEGA laser facility is a vital contributor to national security and an invaluable source of scientific education and leadership. The OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) are the largest and most capable found at any academic institution in both the United States and worldwide. The LLE is recognized nationally and internationally for its critical contributions to the DOE’s science-based stewardship programs in partnership with three national security laboratories (Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)). The LLE is the most cost-effective facility in the science-based stockpile stewardship program, performing 80 percent of all the target shots used in the national ICF and high energy density physics programs with only 13 percent of NNSA’s ICF budget.

OMEGA is the staging and support facility for experiments at Livermore’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) and supports laser research at the Z machine for Sandia Laboratories fusion approach as well as innovative fusion approaches in partnership with Los Alamos. Working with the national laboratories, LLE is also pursuing critical performance enhancements to the OMEGA Laser Facility that are required to extend its capabilities in partnership to ensure a balanced approach to fusion ignition. The LLE is the lead laboratory for the Direct Drive approach to ignition that was recognized by the directors of the three NNSA Laboratories as one of the three viable approaches to this important goal for science-based stewardship.

As the U.S. Department of Energy’s and NNSA’s largest university-based program, it is also the only major facility that trains graduate students from both the University of Rochester and other leading institutions such as MIT, University of Michigan, Princeton and the University of California, and serves as a pipeline to educate and train future talent that is critically important to our national and economic security. More than 300 individuals are currently involved at OMEGA, and LLE’s National Laser User’s Facility hosts more than 400 scientists from around the world to carry out fundamental research, training, and education. Through its groundbreaking research, the LLE provides a strong stimulus to the regional economy as a source of new start-up companies and a driver of New York’s high-technology sector.

Thank you for your consideration in support of this national asset. I look forward to working with you as you finalize the FY 2017 process and begin consideration of FY 2018.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator