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A revolutionary new laser called the Petawatt, developed by Lawrence Livermore researchers after an intensive three-year development effort, has produced more than 1,000 trillion ("peta") watts of power, a world record. By crossing the petawatt threshold, the extraordinarily powerful laser heralds a new age in laser research. Lasers that provide a petawatt of power or more in a picosecond may make it possible to achieve fusion using significantly less energy than currently envisioned, through a novel Livermore concept called "fast ignition." The petawatt laser will also enable researchers to study the fundamental properties of matter, thereby aiding the Department of Energy's Stockpile Stewardship efforts and opening entirely new physical regimes to study. The technology developed for the Petawatt has also provided several spinoff technologies, including a new approach to laser material processing.
Although stockpile evaluation is not new, methods and tests have undergone marked changes since the program's inception almost four decades ago. Today Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories are responsible for the extensive and rigorous tests to evaluate the portions and components of the stockpile weapons that each has designed. An overview of Livermore high-explosives tests of components in nuclear stockpile weapons illustrates the degree of assurance that the laboratories work toward. Evaluation includes tests for changes in physical properties, mechanical properties with tensile and compression tests, and performance with pin-dome, "snowball", and aging tests. Looking toward the future, the program is working to improve predictive capabilities so that weapons designed at Livermore can safely be stored and work exactly as intended throughout their stockpile life.
and LLNL Disclaimers