Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Four teams of Laboratory researchers and one individual were honored with National Nuclear Security Administration Defense Programs Awards of Excellence for work performed in 2016. The Exceptional Achievement Award was awarded to Bruno Van Wonterghem for his tireless dedication to ensuring the National Ignition Facility (NIF) delivers high-quality experiments for all its users in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP).

The NIF High-Z Raleigh–Taylor Strength Team executed the first plutonium (Pu) strength experiment at NIF in support of the SSP mission. The team fielded the first high-pressure Pu strength experiment at NIF using a Rayleigh–Taylor instability growth platform that has been developed and matured over the past decade at NIF and the Omega Laser Facility using tantalum samples. This first experiment ushered in a new era in high-energy-density experimentation for SSP. This achievement required developing new polymer materials and low-density foams, fabricating a complex target with submicrometer tolerances, building unique x ray–hardened diagnostics, the high-purity winning of Pu at the 100-millligram scale, the development of new x-ray backlighter technology, and the physics design and execution of a complex experiment to obtain strength data on Pu at the highest pressures of any platform to date.

The Anti-Reflective Grating Debris Shield (AR-GDS) Team developed the AR-GDS for NIF, which greatly enhanced the facility’s ability to operate at high laser energies while decreasing costs. The AR-GDS reduces the laser damage rate by an incredible factor of more than 50 over the previous grating debris shield (GDS) process. The AR-GDS is being used on all of NIF’s 192 beamlines, putting NIF on a path to reducing GDS operating cost by a factor of at least six over its predecessor. More importantly, this breakthrough increases shots for users at NIF’s full energy, making more rapid progress in the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Program possible. This breakthrough has also made it possible to explore higher energy operation at NIF.

The Fill-Tube Science Team improved diagnosis and understanding of fill-tube effects in ICF implosions. The team studied the effect of the capsule fill-tube on ICF implosions and found the perturbation from the fill-tube was bigger than expected. Their careful and thorough approach ensured that the data was unambiguous, and thus motivated quick action to explore how the fill-tube perturbation could be mitigated. The success of this complex endeavor resulted from excellent teamwork and a careful and thorough scientific approach of dividing the integrated experiment into a series of component experiments. This approach led to the discovery of effects not initially modeled or predicted, coupled with the use of new diagnostics and target fabrication innovations, to arrive at better modeling, understanding, and performance.

The Broadband Laser Ranging (BLR) Analysis and Software Development Team supported development of an optical method of providing surface position as a function of time. According to National Security Technologies, Inc., in Nevada, the BLR technique is a vast improvement over the pins used in the past where each one only gave a signal for one location at a single point in time. In combination with photonic doppler velocimetry, BLR can provide much more detailed characterization of an implosion, thus providing more constraining data for validating simulations and improving predictive capability. The BLR diagnostic removes the time-intensive steps associated with a previous technique, saving significant time and money.