Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Bret Knapp Selected as Livermore’s Interim Director

Bret E. Knapp has been named as the Laboratory’s acting director and as acting president of Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS), which manages Lawrence Livermore for the Department of Energy. Knapp replaces Penrose “Parney” C. Albright, who stepped down as director on October 31, 2013, to pursue his broader interests and contributions to the U.S. national security enterprise. Albright had served as Laboratory director since December 2011.

A recognized expert in national security, Knapp began his career at Livermore and spent more than 25 years at the Laboratory, working in nuclear weapons design and testing and leading programs in defense and nuclear technology development. In 2006, he joined the senior management team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, serving as principal associate director for the Weapons Program.

In addressing Livermore employees, Knapp said, “I am honored to be selected by the LLNS Board of Governors to serve during this transition period until a permanent successor is named. I would also like to acknowledge Director Albright for his hard work and dedication to the people and programs at [Lawrence Livermore]. Livermore is a vital national security institution, and I will work to continue and grow its cutting-edge science and engineering programs.”

Knapp received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Davis. According to Norman Pattiz, chairman of the LLNS Board of Governors, a national search for a new Laboratory director will be conducted under the leadership of the University of California.
Contact: James A. Bono (925) 422-9919 (

Laser Fusion Experiments Yield Record Energy

Cryogenic experiments using all 192 laser beams on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) have achieved record yields for neutron energy generated by the implosion of a tiny target capsule filled with deuterium–tritium fuel. An early morning shot on August 13, 2013, released nearly 3 × 1015 neutrons, or approximately 8,000 joules of neutron energy—about 3 times the previous neutron yield for cryogenic implosions on the Livermore facility. A shot on September 28 surpassed that record, producing 5 × 1015 neutrons. These conditions had not been observed since the days of underground nuclear weapons testing; achieving them is an important milestone for the world’s most energetic laser system.

NIF’s primary mission is experimental research in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which applies science-based techniques instead of underground testing to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons. Results from the successful experiments provide a benchmark for validating computer simulation tools developed for stockpile stewardship. The record yields also represent a significant step along the path toward another NIF mission: to achieve fusion ignition and sustained burn in a laboratory setting.

According to Livermore physicist Omar Hurricane, previous experiments showed that the breakup of the target capsule’s imploding shell (or ablator) was reducing target compression and thus degrading performance. To make the ablator more resistant to breakup, the NIF team turned up the laser power during the “picket” that occurs at the beginning of the laser pulse. The added power increased the radiation temperature in the foot or trough period of the pulse, which improved the ablator’s stability and reduced compression later in the implosion. Hurricane, who led the record-setting experiments, adds that the team’s results were remarkably close to simulations and provide important information for better understanding and improving NIF’s performance.
Contact: Omar Hurricane (925) 424-2701 (

Virus Detected in Bladder Cancers

An international collaboration involving two Livermore scientists has detected a virus in bladder cancer, the seventh most common malignancy in humans. This research is believed to be the first study to demonstrate a link between Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and bladder cancers.

Scientists from the University of Split in Croatia collected bladder biopsies from 55 Croatian patients (44 men and 11 women) with different stages of bladder cancer. Livermore biologist Crystal Jaing and computational biologist Kevin McLoughlin then used the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA) to analyze DNA extracts from three randomly selected specimens. Results showed that all three samples had the KSHV pathogen. Team members confirmed the LLMDA analysis through KSHV-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. PCR tests of the remaining specimens detected KSHV DNA in 30 of the 55 samples, or 55 percent of the study group.

The team, which also included scientists from the University of Jordan, published these results in the August 2013 issue of Tumor Biology. According to the authors, the high prevalence of KSHV infection indicates that the pathogen may play a role in the formation of bladder cancer. Jaing notes that this paper is the first to demonstrate LLMDA being used as the primary detector of a virus associated with a specific disease—findings that were then confirmed using other techniques.
Contact: Crystal Jaing (925) 424-6574 (