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New National Nuclear Security Administration agreement authorizes record LLE funding

October 14, 2019
A technician maneuvers a diagnostic outside the target chamber of the Omega EP laser at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics. A renewed agreement with National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) brings record funding to the Laser Lab. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced an agreement to support the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). NNSA and LLE have executed a supplemental cooperative agreement (CA) in the amount of $279.9 million for fiscal years (FY) 2020–23. Adding to previously executed agreements, including $80 million that the LLE already received for FY19, this makes possible a total funding level of $409.9 million for the FY 2019–23—a record amount authorized for the lab in a five-year CA. Each year’s level is dependent on the NNSA’s annual budget cycle and the available funds that year.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE with core missions to maintain the nuclear stockpile, monitor and promote nonproliferation, power the nuclear Navy, and respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies. The LLE is the largest university-based US Department of Energy program in the nation and is home to the OMEGA laser, the most energetic laser system found at any academic institution. This past August, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, along with US Representative Joseph Morelle, personally visited the LLE to meet with researchers and students and tour the OMEGA and OMEGA EP laser facilities—a visit Gordon-Hagerty called “truly inspiring.”

According to LLE Director Michael Campbell, the renewed NNSA agreement is a great expression of the agency’s long-term support for LLE and helps ensure that the lab’s leading role in fusion, high-energy-density science, and advanced high-intensity lasers and optics will continue in Rochester.

Said University President Sarah Mangelsdorf: “The University is extremely thankful to the National Nuclear Security Administration for this renewed commitment to the LLE, and very grateful to US Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Morelle, Tom Reed, and John Katko for their dedication to this funding effort and tireless leadership and support to the University. I was honored to meet with NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty at our LLE in August and was extremely proud to showcase our talented students, scientists, faculty, and staff who make the facility a truly world-class destination for inertial-confinement fusion and high-energy-density physics research. The LLE’s contributions over the years have advanced the nation’s scientific leadership, strengthened our national and economic security, and fostered the development of new technologies and companies, and I look forward to LLE’s exciting future in Rochester.”

“I’m so glad that NNSA and DOE have heard my concerns and now recognize the need to enlist the Rochester Laser Lab’s cutting-edge capabilities through this brand-new, record-high five-year cooperative agreement,” said Schumer. “This agreement will enable the world-class lab to continue making vital contributions to national security and providing invaluable sources of scientific education and leadership that ultimately support DOE’s mission. I pushed for this new cooperative agreement to keep the lab up and running every chance I got because not only does it play a paramount role in our national security, but is also vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions of dollars into the region. The United States of America has always taken pride in our scientific achievements, and with the Laser Lab being responsible for so many of them, I’ll always fight relentlessly to ensure it has the necessary resources to keep innovating on behalf of the American people.”

“I’m very pleased that the Department of Energy has once again recognized the University of Rochester’s leadership and contributions to our nation’s energy and security fields, and that it will continue to operate the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in partnership with the University,” said Gillibrand. “The University’s Laser Lab conducts ground-breaking, globally recognized research, and is vital to keeping our nation at the forefront of the high-tech economy. That’s why I lead the fight every year to ensure it has the federal support it needs. The continued partnership between the University and the Department of Energy will help ensure that the lab will stay in Rochester, where it can keep building on its success.”

“Congratulations to the University of Rochester on the finalization of the new five-year cooperative agreement,” said Morelle. “This substantial authorization will leverage the unique assets of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics facility to further grow their innovative and cutting-edge scientific research. We are blessed to have this world-class institution in our backyard that continues to cement its place as a global leader in innovative technologies. I am grateful to NNSA for their investment in the future of our community and look forward to the continued growth of the LLE.”

The LLE was established with funding from the University of Rochester, New York state, and private industry. With growing support from the Department of Energy beginning in 1975, the LLE operates the National Laser Users Facility and attracts as many as 500 additional scientists each year from national laboratories, universities, and companies from the United States and other nations. In addition to its vital roles in various areas of scientific research and its support of the local high-tech economy, the LLE also plays an important part in educating the next generation of scientists and engineers; because it is located on a university campus, undergraduates and even area high school students are able to benefit from its resources and programs.

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Category: Science & Technology

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