NIF transitions to international science facility; Jeff Atherton named NIF director

LIVERMORE, Calif. - L. Jeffrey (Jeff) Atherton has been named director of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Director Parney Albright announced Monday.

Effective May 1, Atherton will take on the role of director as NIF, the world's largest and most energetic laser, transitions to a user facility. Ed Moses will remain the principal associate director for the NIF & Photon Science Directorate.

NIF provides a fundamental capability for the nuclear stockpile stewardship program, allowing scientists at the weapons laboratories to study physics phenomena under the unique condition of nuclear tests.

"NIF has entered a new era, operating as the world's pre-eminent high energy density (HED) science facility supporting an international community working in national security and frontier science," Albright explained. "NIF has demonstrated key capabilities in all mission areas that could not be done anyplace else. The demand for NIF capabilities is growing, and the sophistication of the experiments is increasing along with the number of shots requested."

To accommodate and prioritize the demand for NIF shots and to ensure "only the best science is done," Albright and Moses have implemented several processes in NIF governance. In addition to naming Atherton, these include:

  • Formal interactions with various working groups and councils involved in HED stockpile stewardship and weapons science, national security, inertial confinement fusion and basic science programs;
  • The formation of subject matter expert working groups in targets, diagnostics and operations;
  • The proactive work of several NIF planning groups and the NIF User Office.

"The role of the NIF director has grown, become more visible and requires continual interaction with the user communities; with respect to this alone it has become a full-time position," Albright said. "It is time to redefine the role of the NIF director to concentrate on implementation of the governance process, be responsible for developing and maintaining a facility use plan, and communicating with the HED science community and the broader set of stakeholders.

'The NIF director will ensure the facility use plan balances needs and priorities across the NIF mission areas."

Albright said Atherton was well qualified for the role of NIF director. "He is knowledgeable and experienced in all of the technology systems in NIF, and in the management of its suite of complex operations. He has established himself as a leader in the integration of user requirements into complex operation scenarios and is respected for his leadership and skill in managing interactions with all members of the broad user community."

While Atherton will remain a member of the NIF&PS directorate, he will report to Bill Goldstein, the Laboratory's deputy director for Science & Technology.