SCHUMER REVEALS MAJOR PLAN TO SAVE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER’S LASER LAB FROM BEING ELIMINATED; SENATOR SAYS LAB IS VITAL TO THE REGION AND NATIONAL SECURITY; SENATOR VOWS TO USE CONGRESSIONAL POWER TO MAINTAIN FUNDING FOR THE LAB’S INNOVATIVE RESEARCH
Senator Also Invites Top Department of Energy Official To Laser Lab, And Calls On DOE Secretary Perry To Stand Ready To Approve A New 5-Year Cooperative Agreement, Keeping The Lab Open For Years To Come
Senator Says U of R’s Laser Lab Is Critical To National Security And The Future Of American Innovation And Must Stay Fully Operational
Schumer Vows To Vaporize Any Cuts To Rochester’s Laser Lab
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced a three-pronged push to protect and expand the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Schumer’s three-pronged push is a continuation of his multi-year effort of advocating for increased funding for LLE, which will help the University of Rochester further the critical work being done at its lab. Schumer said the Laser Lab, which the administration proposed closing down in three years in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, is a hub of technological pursuits and therefore he promised to fight any proposed cuts and to keep the lab fully operational.
“Let me be clear, I will work hard to vaporize any efforts to cut or eliminate Rochester’s Laser Lab. Every time I visit the Rochester Laser Lab I am blown away by the groundbreaking work they are doing. Since ending underground nuclear testing, the only way to now get the information we need on our nuclear weapon stockpile’s performance, safety, and reliability is by doing specific test experiments. 80% of these test experiments are done at the Rochester Laser Lab. Especially at a time when countries like China and Russia are working to beat the U.S. to new technological advances, the federal government should be doing more, not less, to put the Laser Lab to work for our nation’s energy and national security research needs. And on top of that, it draws the best and brightest to Rochester, deeply enriching the regional economy,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why today, as Democratic Leader I am announcing that I will be urging Congress to include $75 million worth of federal funding for the LLE in the upcoming Appropriations bill this month. Additionally, I am calling on the DOE to stand ready to approve a new cooperative agreement between LLE and the Department of Energy NNSA that will keep its doors open for the next 5 years.”
Schumer’s plan to protect the University of Rochester’s Laser Lab includes: first calling on Congress to include $75 million in federal funding for LLE in the FY 2018 spending bill. Second, Schumer called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to review and approve a new 5-year Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and LLE. Schumer said the new agreement will allow LLE to continue its vital work in the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP), which keeps our nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile safe, secure, and reliable, as well as to continue its work in support of the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Energy Density Physics (HEDP) programs. Finally, Schumer invited NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty to tour the Laser Lab and see one of the key institutions vital to the NNSA’s mission: the OMEGA Laser Facility.
Schumer added, “I am also inviting Administrator Gordon-Hagerty to come tour the LLE so she can see firsthand the world-class laser lab in action and see all the reasons why I'm pushing to see it grow now and in the future. The United States of America has always taken pride in our scientific achievements, and I will continue fighting tirelessly to ensure that the facilities responsible for them have all the tools they need to keep working for the American people.”
As one of the premier institutions training the next generation of leaders in the fields of physics, optics, and material science, LLE is an economic development magnet that bolsters local high tech jobs and attracts scientific talent to Rochester. Many Rochester companies including Sydor Technologies, QED Technologies, and Lucid were created as a result of the Lab and now employ hundreds. The Laser Lab itself employs more than 340 professional, technical, and administrative staff. Since its inception, the LLE has attracted almost $2 billion to New York State to support cutting-edge research, and more than 1,000 individuals are currently involved in the program. Through the LLE’s mission, the University also attracts as many as 300 additional visiting scientists each year to Rochester from national laboratories, universities, and companies, and currently hosts over 141 students (graduate, undergraduate, and high school).
Schumer is calling on Congress to include adequate funding for LLE in the upcoming FY18 spending bill that Congress is expected to consider and pass later this month. Currently, the Senate’s version of the Appropriation Bill includes $75 million for the LLE, while the House of Representative’s version only includes $68 million. Schumer is specifically calling for Congress to use the Senate version’s $75 million allocation instead of the lower House of Representatives number. Schumer said the continued federal investment in the Rochester Laser Lab will allow LLE to advance its critical research and work in fusion power, which is key to strategic work on an independent energy future.
Additionally, the funding will provide the necessary resources to support the Lab’s research program, operations and experiments on OMEGA, which is the second most powerful ultraviolet fusion laser in the world. Schumer warned that in the recently announced Presidential budget proposal, federal support for the Rochester Laser Lab was significantly cut, with the administration proposing that the lab close over the next three years. Schumer vowed to fight against proposed cuts and warned that if vital funding is not appropriated the Lab could be forced to lay off scientists and engineers, and reduce their capacity and partnerships with National Laboratories, hurting American national security, harming the safety and reliability of our current stockpile of nuclear weapons, and stymying critical research initiatives.
Schumer’s second push is for the Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to approve a new 5-year Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. The new Agreement sets forth $424,700,000 in work that will be performed at the LLE and its OMEGA Laser Facility between FY19-FY23 for the DOE’s energy discovery, scientific, and nuclear weapon stockpile security needs. The current $345,094,000 Cooperative Agreement enacted five years ago is set to expire in late March, 2018. Schumer is urging Secretary Perry to approve a short term extension of the current Cooperative Agreement and then the new $424,700,000 5-year agreement beginning with FY19. Schumer explained the extension will give the two parties plenty of time to finalize the long-term cooperative agreement while avoiding the possibility of having the LLE close for any period of time.
Schumer said the extension and long-term agreement, once approved, will ensure the continuation of LLE’s vital work in the Stockpile Stewardship Program in order to keep our nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile safe, secure, and reliable, as well as to continue its work in support of the Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Energy Density Physics programs.
Working in partnership with three national security Department of Energy laboratories (Los Alamos, Sandia, and Livermore), the LLE is recognized nationally and internationally for its ICF and high energy density science research as part of the nuclear Stockpile Security Program (SSP). Schumer said without underground nuclear testing, the only way to get the information needed for performance, weapons effects, and the safety of our current aging nuclear weapon stockpile is by doing ICF test experiments. Eighty percent of these ICF test experiments are done at the University of Rochester Laser Lab. In fact, Lawrence Livermore Lab conducts more of these experiments using the Rochester lab than their own facility.
Schumer’s final push is to invite NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty to tour the lab, including the world-renowned OMEGA Laster Lab. According to the University of Rochester, the OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) are the largest and most capable found at any academic institution in the United States, and more broadly, worldwide. Schumer pointed out that during Gordon-Hagerty’s confirmation hearings she stated that among the DOE and NNSA’s unique responsibilities is to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of our nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. As such, she said that one of DOE’s top priorities for achieving this mission will be to develop a skilled workforce to ensure that the nation’s “nuclear security enterprise continues to employ the brightest and the best by recruiting, retaining, and growing the highly skilled workforce needed to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.” Schumer said a visit to LLE is a perfect opportunity to excel in both of these pursuits. Schumer argued that the LLE is vital in terms of both enabling the NNSA to meet this responsibility of ensuring our Nation’s nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable, as well as advancing the government’s priority of developing and educating the next generation workforce of scientists, engineers, and technicians that our nation needs.
Since its inception in 1970, the LLE at the University of Rochester has continued to shine as one of the nation’s leading institutions in advanced physics, photonics, and optics. Schumer said the University of Rochester’s programs and research have aimed to strengthen national security, help discover new and efficient sources of energy, as well as train the next generation scientific workforce.
Schumer said that the important work done by LLE helps America to stay ahead of the international competition and avoid technological surprises by other countries like Russia and China. Schumer said the U.S. needs to continue investing in facilities like the Laser Lab.
Schumer was joined by University of Rochester President Richard Feldman, University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics Director Michael Campbell.
“I want to express my profound gratitude to Senator Schumer for his leadership and steadfast support for the University’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Thanks to his efforts, the LLE is a vital contributor to our national and economic security, the largest university-based U.S. Department of Energy program in the entire country, and home to one of the largest and most powerful laser systems found at any academic institution in the world. Robust and sustained federal investment in LLE will allow it to continue to be at the forefront of science, maintain U.S. global leadership and security, educate and train the next generation of leaders, and be an engine for regional economic growth and innovation,” University of Rochester President Feldman
Schumer has long fought for Rochester’s Laser Lab. In past years, Schumer has helped secure millions of dollars for the lab and pledged to continue to work for funds to strengthen this first-class institution. Schumer helped secure $68 million in funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 spending bill for the LLE and advocated for federal investment in Fiscal Year 2017. Schumer stated that he will continue his efforts in Fiscal Year 2018 and beyond to help grow the laser lab, which is a key driver of Rochester’s optics and photonics industry and in maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile while developing new clean energy sources. Schumer’s three-pronged push for funding, the cooperative agreement, and bringing the NNSA Administrator to LLE will be major milestones for the University and their scientific mission.
A Copy of Schumer’s Letters Appear Below:
Dear Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty,
Congratulations on your confirmation last month as the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In your new role, I want to invite you to join me for a visit and tour of one of the key institutions vital to the NNSA’s mission: the OMEGA Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). The OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) are the largest and most capable found at any academic institution either in the United States or abroad.
I appreciated during your confirmation hearing testimony when you stated that among the DOE and NNSA’s unique responsibilities is to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of our nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, and as such, one of your top priorities for achieving this mission will be to develop a skilled workforce to ensure that the nation’s “nuclear security enterprise continues to employ the brightest and the best by recruiting, retaining, and growing the highly skilled workforce needed to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.”
For the DOE and NNSA to excel on both these pursuits, look no further than the LLE. The LLE is vital to both enable the NNSA to meet this responsibility of ensuring our nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable, as well as to advance your priority of developing and educating the next generation workforce of scientists, engineers, and technicians that our nation needs.
Together with the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and the Z Facility at Los Alamos at Sandia National Lab, the University of Rochester’s LLE is one of only three facilities used by the DOE to conduct its Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program work as part of the DOE’s Stockpile Stewardship Program. The ICF program is a critical component of the Stockpile Stewardship Program that maintains a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. Without underground nuclear testing, which was ended in 1992, the only way to get the information we need on our nuclear weapons performance, weapons effects, and the safety of our current aging nuclear weapon stockpile is by doing ICF test experiments. The LLE is the most cost-effective facility in the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program – performing 80 percent of all the target shots used in the national Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Energy Density Physics programs with only 13 percent of NNSA’s ICF budget. In fact, Lawrence Livermore lab conducts more of these experiments using the Rochester lab than their own facility.
The LLE’s ICF work helps avoid technological surprise by other nuclear weapons states like China and Russia, maintains US leadership in this field of science, and attracts future scientists and engineers to national security by focusing on new energy discovery work. As the NNSA’s largest university-based program, it is the only major facility that trains graduate students from both the University of Rochester and other leading institutions such as MIT, University of Michigan, Princeton and the University of California, and serves as a pipeline to educate and train future talent that is critically important to our national and economic security. More than 360 scientists, engineers and technicians are currently involved at OMEGA, and LLE’s National Laser User’s Facility brings more than 400 scientists from around the world every year to carry out fundamental research, training and education.
I appreciate your consideration and hope you can soon see first-hand the importance of supporting and continuing the vital work performed at the LLE.
Charles E. Schumer
cc: Philip T. Calbos
Kathleen Alexander, Ph.D.
Njema Frazier, Ph.D.
Dear Secretary Perry:
I write to bring to your attention to the new 5-year Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) that is presently under review and to ask for your expedited approval. Given that the present Cooperative Agreement with the LLE expires on March 31, 2018 and the NNSA has agreed to extend it to the end of this fiscal year to enable the necessary process for the new agreement to be completed, I also ask for your support to extend the present agreement to September 30, 2018.
The LLE is the largest DOE and NNSA funded university-based research center in the nation and the LLE’s OMEGA lasers (Omega and Omega EP) are the largest and most capable at any academic institution in the U.S. and worldwide. It is the only fusion research program jointly supported by the federal government, the State of New York, industry, utilities, and a research university.
The LLE has prepared a 5-year renewal agreement of $424,700,000 for the period of FY 2019 through FY 2023 at the request of the NNSA since the current five-year Cooperative Agreement, signed in 2013, concludes in 2018. Through these 5-year agreements, the LLE and its OMEGA Laser Facility make vital contributions to national security and provide invaluable sources of scientific education and leadership to support DOE’s mission. Working in partnership with three national security laboratories (Los Alamos, Sandia and Livermore), the LLE is recognized nationally and internationally for its contributions to the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) and High Energy Density Physics (HEDP) programs in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP).
The LLE is the lead laboratory for the Direct Drive approach to ignition that was recognized as one of the three viable approaches to this important goal for science-based stewardship. OMEGA is also the staging and support facility for experiments at Livermore’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) and supports laser research for Sandia’s fusion approach as well as innovative fusion approaches in partnership with Los Alamos. Working with the national labs, the LLE is pursuing a balanced approach to ignition and improve capabilities for high energy density research to maintain the U.S.’s global leadership in SSP and avoid a technological surprise from Russia or China.
As a major contributor to high-energy-density research including materials at extreme conditions, the LLE is also recognized as a world-leading center in high power laser science and technology. The Cooperative Agreement supports the laser science that is needed to meet the SSP’s physics objectives. A recent National Academy of Science (NAS) report addressed the loss of U.S. leadership in high power lasers to Europe and Asia and recommended a vigorous national response to address this threat. The LLE was the leading academic institution that invented the technology that enabled this field is positioned to play a major role in response to the NAS recommendations.
As the NNSA’s largest university-based program, the LLE is also the only major facility that trains graduate students from both the University of Rochester and other leading institutions such as MIT, University of Michigan, Princeton and the University of California, and serves as a pipeline to educate and train future talent that is critically important to our national and economic security. More than 100 students are presently conducting research for their doctorate degrees and over 500 advanced degrees have been awarded since LLE’s founding. More than 360 scientists, engineers and technicians are currently involved at OMEGA, and LLE’s National Laser User’s Facility brings more than 400 scientists from around the nation and the world every year to carry out fundamental research, training and education. The new Cooperative Agreement is vital to allow the LLE to continue to train the future workforce to help meet our national security needs. It is worth noting that Dr. Charles Verdon, recently nominated to be Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs at NNSA, began his scientific career in the ICF program at LLE.
The new Cooperative Agreement will support the cutting-edge research and operation of state-of-the-art facilities at the LLE in support of the SSP. More specifically, it will support critical decisions related to the maintenance and modernization of weapons systems and achieving scientific milestones set in NNSA’s ten-year strategic plan for ICF and high energy density science. It will also support growing demand for facility operations and experiments on OMEGA to make progress on all three of the most viable approaches to fusion and support the research programs of the three NNSA labs in direct stockpile support research. Currently, 80 percent of all ICF experiments are conducted at LLE and demand for the OMEGA Laser Facility exceeds available time by more than a factor of two.
The NNSA has conducted a management and technical review of the proposed agreement that by all accounts was outstanding. Once approved, this new Cooperative Agreement will ensure continuation of the LLE’s vital work in the SSP to keep our nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile safe, secure, and reliable, as well as continue its work in support of the ICF and HEDP programs and to train the next generation of scientists and engineers for our national security.
With the extension of the existing Cooperative Agreement and the new 5-year Cooperative Agreement awaiting your review and approval, I thank you in advance for your timely consideration so that the Agreement can be enacted without delay. Swift approval is an important step to ensure the DOE can continue to benefit from the LLE’s contributions for years to come. Particularly in light of actions from nations like China and Russia that are working to beat the U.S. to new technological advancements by investing in their own facilities and research based on our ICF program, it is vital that the DOE and the LLE can continue this vital work over the next five years and well into the future.
Charles E. Schumer
Cc: Philip Calbos
Kathleen Alexander, Ph.D.
Njema Frazier, Ph.D.
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