U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today launched their push to secure $78 million in federal funding for the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Schumer and Gillibrand urged federal appropriators to include this funding in the FY 2017 budget. With the first $68 million in funding, the University of Rochester will be able to continue its critical research and work in fusion power, which has the potential to completely eradicate U.S. dependence on foreign oil. This funding will provide the necessary resources to support the Lab’s research program and operations and experiments on OMEGA, which is the second most powerful ultraviolet fusion laser in the world. The additional $10 million will allow the laser lab to partner with Sandia National Laboratories to develop a new, university-scale pulsed power facility, which will provide the advanced research that will help develop the next generation pulsed power system that will be mated with the existing OMEGA-EP laser.
Schumer and Gillibrand have 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 2016 omnibus spending bill, the Senators secured $68 million in federal funds for the laser lab. Absent this level of funding, the Lab could have been forced to lay off scientists and engineers, and reduce their capacity and partnerships with national laboratories.
“We need this funding for the Rochester Laser Lab included in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for 2017 so we can ensure this world-class facility is not forced to lay off scientists and engineers, and that its partnerships with national laboratories and spin-off businesses do not suffer. On top of this, these federal funds would allow the laser lab to embark on a new project aimed at developing the next generation of high-tech, high-powered lasers,” said Senator Schumer. “The U.S. is currently the global leader in high-energy laser technologies – this funding will not only ensure Rochester can continue as a job-creating center of scientific talent, but allow UofR to keep this nation at the forefront of this research and on the cutting edge of laser innovation.”
“Earlier this year, I visited the University of Rochester and saw firsthand their state-of-the-art facilities. The University remains at the forefront of our nation’s quest to find affordable and efficient sources of energy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These federal funds would facilitate the resources needed to advance this growing industry, create jobs, and help launch new start-up companies. I will continue to work hard to include this funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bill to ensure our nation’s edge in research remains in Rochester and continue to develop a thriving industry for growing businesses of the future.”
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 singular environment for LLE within a technologically sophisticated 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.
“I want to express my gratitude to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for their continued support and leadership on behalf of the University’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics,” said University of Rochester President and CEO Joel Seligman. “Thanks to their efforts, the Laboratory continues to push the frontiers of science to enhance our national and economic security, and to keep us at the forefront of strategic work on an independent energy future.”
As one of the leading institutions training the next generation of leaders in the fields of physics, optics, and material science, LLE is an economic development magnet that bolsters local high tech jobs and attracts scientific talent to Rochester. The LLE currently employs 316 full-time staff members, 20 University Faculty members and 5 contract employees. Since its inception, the LLE has attracted almost $2 billion to New York State to support cutting edge research, and 500 individuals are currently involved in the program. Through the LLE’s mission, the University also attracts more than 400 additional visiting scientists each year to Rochester from national laboratories, universities, and companies and currently hosts over 141 students (graduate, undergraduate, and high school).
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to federal appropriators appears below:
Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein:
As you begin consideration of the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, we write to request you provide $78,000,000 for the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Weapons Activities Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program. We are requesting $68,000,000 in major technical effort support – the same level as the FY16 enacted level – and $10,000,000 to support the research and development of pulsed power driver technology in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).
The LLE is a vital contributor to our national and global security and plays an important role in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Yield Campaign, key elements of the DOE’s Safety and Security Policy (SSP). As home to two of the world’s most powerful and highest energy lasers (OMEGA and OMEGA EP), the LLE is recognized nationally and internationally for its critical contributions to the DOE’s ICF and high energy density physics (HEDP) programs in partnership with three national laboratories (Los Alamos, SNL and Livermore). The LLE has made critical contributions to the sustainment of the nation’s nuclear stockpile and advancements to ensure the U.S.’s undisputed global leadership in HED science. NNSA has recognized LLE’s accomplishments by stating that LLE is a “very cost effective user facility” that “has made significant contributions to the Stockpile Stewardship Program.” In addition, the National Academy of Sciences recently stated that the LLE is the “the leader of direct drive inertial confinement fusion with solid-state lasers.”
More than 500 individuals are currently involved in the program, and its National Laser User’s Facility (NLUF) hosts more than 400 scientists from many of the world’s leading research universities and national laboratories to carry out fundamental research, training and education in HEDP, high-power lasers, and electro-optics technology. 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.
For FY17, we seek support for $68,000,000 ($5,200,000 less than LLE’s five-year $345,094,000 Cooperative Agreement with the DOE/NNSA) to provide the necessary resources to support the LLE’s research programs, operations, and experiments on OMEGA and OMEGA EP in support of an ignition demonstration on the NIF, the HEDP program, and basic science. These funds also enable LLE to operate the OMEGA facilities for the user community from the national laboratories and universities.
In addition, the SNL and the LLE are partnering to develop new university-scale pulsed power facilities and programs to provide advanced research to develop the next generation pulsed power system that will be mated with the existing OMEGA-EP laser. This unique pulsed-power laser facility will serve the SSP and HEDP community in the same manner as OMEGA has done for laser-based science in support of these important DOE-NNSA missions. The United States is currently the global leader in high-energy and high-power pulsed power science, engineering, technologies, and their application. However, there is growing interest in Russia and China with facilities under construction. LLE, in collaboration with SNL, have the opportunity to maintain the U.S.’s dominance in this important and growing element of HEDP and SSP. Recognizing the strategic importance of continued U.S. leadership in this area, we seek additional funding of $10,000,000 to support develop the next generation pulsed power technology and mission applications of this unique laser-pulsed power facility. This laboratory-university collaboration has strong support from the State of New York and will also strengthen the nation’s ability to train and attract scientists and engineers needed to execute our national security missions, contribute to the Science Campaigns, and make important scientific contributions in ICF and HEDP. As part of this initiative, NLUF will be expanded to build U.S. expertise in pulsed power, an important technology for the SSP.
Continued federal investment in the LLE will advance the nation’s scientific leadership, strengthen our national security, train the next generation of scientists, foster the development of new technologies, grow our economy, and support efforts to find an affordable, plentiful, and efficient source of energy for the future.
We recognize the difficult funding constraints in which the Subcommittee is operating under and thank you for the consistent support. LLE’s cost-effective activities support NNSA’s critical stockpile stewardship mission and are vital to national security, and we urge you to include $78,000,000 for the LLE in the FY17 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
United States Senator