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Congressman Eric Swalwell

Representing the 15th District of California


Swalwell and Lofgren Urge Strong Support for American Leadership in Fusion Science

March 16, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) this week led 24 House members in urging funding for a program that maintains our national security and keeps America moving toward a new energy future.

The lawmakers’ letter to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee supports President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request of $330 million for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) under the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaign. That is a $3.6 million increase over FY 2016.

The NIF – located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Swalwell’s district – is a critical facility for the National Nuclear Security Administration and the scientific stockpile stewardship program. Its ongoing work ensures that the U.S. can abide by the moratorium on nuclear testing while maintaining a secure stockpile, and its groundbreaking research helps bring the nation closer to unlocking the potential of fusion energy.

“The National Ignition Facility is making important advances toward achieving fusion ignition in the laboratory for the first time, bringing star power to Earth,” Swalwell said. “It’s vital that the United States continue to fund this research and remain a world leader in this field, and not let China or Russia jump ahead.”

“The National Ignition Facility has the potential to achieve groundbreaking results,” said Lofgren. “It is the most powerful and advanced facility of its kind in the world. We can’t let our foot off the pedal while the rest of the world is racing to be the first to achieve fusion ignition.”

The NIF is the world’s largest and most powerful laser facility – the size of a sports stadium, with a giant laser using nearly 40,000 optics to precisely amplify and focus 192 beams onto a target about the size of a pencil eraser. This 500-trillion-watt blast lets scientists create extreme states of matter, including temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) and pressures that exceed 100 billion times Earth’s atmosphere.

Swalwell and Lofgren serve on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Swalwell serves on the Energy Subcommittee, overseeing energy research and development as well as the Department of Energy laboratories and science activities, and also on the Research and Technology Subcommittee. Lofgren is Chair of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation.

“We must not cede American leadership, as this investment leads to the energy industry of the future,” the lawmakers wrote. “To ensure the U.S. does not fall behind our competitors and continues to build upon the significant investments already made, it is essential that the NIF be given the sustained funding consistent with the President’s budget request.”

Read the letter here.