Magazine article Insight on the News

Government Laser Project Is Drawing Fire

Magazine article Insight on the News

Government Laser Project Is Drawing Fire

Article excerpt

When constructed at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the National Ignition Facility (in laymen's terms: one of the world's biggest lasers), or NIF, will serve as a cornerstone of the Department of Energy's, or DOE's, Stockpile Stewardship Program. The program is an ambitious (some even say high-risk) multibillion-dollar effort to assure the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal without testing warheads in real-world conditions -- a practice foreclosed by the Clinton administration, which is abiding by a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty never ratified by the Senate.

Stockpile Stewardship is thus a race against time and resources, with the Energy Department betting that it can come up with a whole new way to test the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons (without actually making one go BOOM!) before the weapons, many of which already are beyond their design life expectancies, fall dangerously into disrepair. But that critical race is being slowed and the resources devoted to it are being drained away, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, or GAO, due to mismanagement and deception by project managers. …

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