U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced their successful push to secure $82 million in funding for the OMEGA Laser Facility at University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). The funding comes as part of $575 million that the senators fought to deliver to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program in the bipartisan FY 2021 appropriations package. The funding will help achieve scientific milestones laid out in the current five-year Cooperative Agreement between LLE and the NNSA and will provide resources to help support the science-based stewardship of the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile. This funding will support nearly 900 jobs for scientists, engineers, technicians, and support staff, helping to drive economic growth throughout New York State.
“The inclusion of $82 million in funding for the U of R’S OMEGA Laser Facility will ensure that the nearly 900 workers employed thanks to the Rochester Laser Lab can stay on the job keeping our nuclear weapon stockpile safe and reliable while pushing the frontiers of energy research at a time when countries like China and Russia are working to beat the U.S. to new technological advances,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m such a staunch supporter of the University of Rochester Laser Lab because it plays a paramount role in our national security and is vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions into the Rochester area. The United States of America has always taken pride in our scientific achievements, and with the U of R Laser Lab responsible for so many of them, I’ll always fight relentlessly to ensure it has the resources necessary to keep innovating on behalf of the American people.”
“The partnership between OMEGA Laser Facility at University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is key to our national security and will keep the United States at the cutting edge of nuclear fusion research,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This world-renowned research is also an important part of New York State’s work force and community, bringing scientists from around the world to the Rochester-Finger Lakes region and creating nearly 900 jobs statewide. The funding is great news for New York and the entire nation, and I am pleased that it has been included in this year’s government funding bill.”
“We are deeply grateful to Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand for their longstanding leadership in support of the LLE and the integral role it plays in enhancing our national security, maintaining global competitiveness, driving economic growth and innovation across New York, and training the next generation of scientists. With this federal support, LLE will continue to make critical contributions to the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program and build on its 50 year history of transformational leadership in laser innovation,” said Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, President, University of Rochester.
Established in 1970, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester is a unique and cost effective national resource for research and education in science and technology. LLE is the largest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) university-based research program in the entire nation and is home to the OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) – two of the largest and most capable at any academic institution in the world. The funding will allow LLE to support facility operations and experiments on OMEGA in order to make progress on the three most viable approaches to fusion, as well as support the research programs of the three NNSA laboratories. With this support, LLE will also be able to provide the needed scientific and technical support for external users, including the national laboratories (LLNL, LANL, and SNL) and more than 400 scientists from over 50 universities, that conduct research at the OMEGA facility. Lastly, this funding will improve cyber infrastructure and enhance the security of new high-performance computing capabilities, accelerate development and deployment of state-of-the-art diagnostics and next-generation laser technologies that have long-distinguished the University.
NNSA’s ICF Program helps to maintain the OMEGA Laser Facility. The ICF program is critical to maintaining safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent maintained through the Stockpile Stewardship Program. This program establishes the United States as a leader in technology and attracts talented scientists, engineers, and students dedicated to achieving controlled fusion laboratory, one of the grand scientific and engineering challenges for the 21st century.
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought for Rochester’s Laser Lab. They helped secure $80 million in funding in the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill and $75 million in 2018. In Fiscal Year 2019, the senators secured another $80 million in funding through the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. The senators will continue their efforts to help grow the laser lab, which is a key driver of Rochester’s optics and photonics industry and in maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile while developing new clean energy sources.