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Tauscher & Pombo Lead Effort to Restore NIF Funding

Location: Washington, DC

Tauscher & Pombo Lead Effort to Restore NIF Funding

Washington, DC - Congresswoman Ellen O. Tauscher (CA-10) and Congressman Richard W. Pombo (CA-11) led a bipartisan California congressional delegation of 33 in a letter to convince the House and Senate conferees for the Energy and Water Appropriations legislation of the need to provide full support for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

"NIF is a vital component of our nation's stockpile stewardship program, which prevents us from needing to conduct nuclear testing. The highly-praised NIF is meeting its schedule, cost and performance goals, and has made invaluable contributions to the economies of California and the East Bay. I join Congressman Pombo is urging our colleagues to restore funding to this essential program so that it can continue its key national security mission," said Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher.

"It's imperative the NIF project continue to be fully funded," said Congressman Pombo. "NIF is the largest research project in the country and has boundless opportunities for California and the Nation. Its function is critical to our national security efforts and global non-proliferation, and it is also very important to our community."

The following is the text of the letter sent today to House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Energy and Water:

Senator Pete Domenici Senator Harry Reid
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Appropriations Senate Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Subcommittee on Energy and Water

Congressman David L. Hobson Congressman Peter J. Visclosky
Chairman Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Subcommittee on Energy and Water

Dear Chairmen Domenici and Hobson, and Ranking Members Reid and Visclosky,

As members from California who care deeply about our nation's security and preserving our nation's scientific leadership, we urge you to provide the full President's request for the National Ignition Facility and the program to achieve ignition as recommended in the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

As you know, the project is essential to the nation and to the safety and credibility of our nuclear deterrent. Ambassador Linton Brooks, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration stressed in a recent letter that NIF is "the only facility that will allow the study of fusion burn (ignition) in the laboratory. This phenomenon, which has been called 'the most important remaining question in weapons physics' by the Defense Science Board, is the key to a modern nuclear deterrent. Without NIF and the understanding it will bring, the Stockpile Stewardship Program will not be able to achieve its objectives."

NIF is on schedule, cost and performance. In a June 10 letter to the House and Senate appropriators, the directors of Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Rochester New York indicated in very clear terms that "If the NIF project and the NIC (National Ignition Campaign) Plan are fully funded and implemented, we are confident that the NIF project and the required target diagnostics, user optics, cryogenics, and ignition targets will be integrated and available for ignition physics experiments by the end of FY2009."

NIF is the largest single tool in the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, identified NIF as the "core" of the Stockpile Stewardship Program and said NIF is "an essential component of the Stockpile Stewardship Program and of a responsive nuclear infrastructure. Using advanced laser and computer technologies, the NIF will be capable of simulating the heat and pressures of a nuclear explosion, which will provide essential data in assessing the potential performance of nuclear weapons."

Secretary Bodman and his predecessor Spencer Abraham, Ambassador Linton Brooks, General John Gordon, and numerous scientific reviews of the facility and its applications, including the JASONs, the Defense Science Board, and the National Research Council, have repeatedly affirmed NIF's value to our national security. According to General John Gordon, "Without the NIF, the ability of the weapons laboratories to continue to certify the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile into the future, without underground testing is doubtful."

Most recently, in testimony before the House Armed Services, Ambassador Linton Brooks identified NIF as "one of the best managed projects." He also testified that the "National Ignition Facility will give us a capability to investigate phenomena that can only be investigated by going to the surface of the sun ...or by setting off a nuclear weapon." Achieving ignition is a major scientific and technical challenge that deserves the country's full support.

The 2004 experiments utilizing the first four beams of the facility have demonstrated the potential scientific value of this facility toward its goals of maintaining the nation's nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing, advancing research and development of inertial confinement fusion as a clean energy source, and exploring basic science issues, such as materials sciences and astrophysics.

NIF plays a vital role in the safety and security of the nation and represents a major scientific advancement in inertial confinement fusion. The advances that have enabled the progress on NIF have also encouraged economic development through the creation and adoption of improved manufacturing processes. In California, NIF supports over 1,000 jobs annually.

In addition to undermining national security, eliminating funds for NIF construction, as the Senate bill recommends, when the program is so close to being completed is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Nearly $2.8 billion dollars have been invested in this vital program since it began in 1997 and we owe it to the American people to show them a return on their investment.

NIF is nearly 80% complete, and we are looking forward to applying the full capability of its 192 beams as soon as possible. The Senate subcommittee's action stands in stark contrast to the decisions of the Senate Armed Services, House Armed Services and House Appropriations committees to provide full funding for NIF construction. We urge you to support the President's request and the recommendations of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Richard W. Pombo Ellen O. Tauscher
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Other signatures include: Rep. David Dreier (CA-26), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-44), Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-14), Rep. Wally Herger (CA-2), Rep. Howard Berman (CA-28), Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-52), Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (CA-50), Rep. Doris O. Matsui (CA-5), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51), Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA-47), Rep. Devin Nunes (CA-21), Rep. Jim Costa (CA-20), Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49), Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-29), Rep. Joe Baca (CA-43), Rep. Mary Bono (CA-45), Rep. George Radanovich (CA-19), Rep. George Miller (CA-7), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46), Rep. Dan Lungren (CA-3), Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA-24), Rep. Tom Lantos (CA-12), Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (CA-25), Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA-39), Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36), Rep. Gary Miller (CA-42), and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA-18).

Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher represents California's Tenth Congressional District and is the only member of Congress to represent two nuclear laboratories, Lawrence Livermore and California Sandia.

Congressman Richard Pombo represents California's Eleventh Congressional District. Congressman Pombo is Chairman of the House Resources Committee and serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

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