Five Lab teams recognized with Secretary’s Honor Achievement Awards

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) employees, participating in five project teams, recently earned Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary’s Honor Achievement Awards.

Representing some of the highest internal, non-monetary recognition that DOE employees and contractors can receive, the Secretary’s Honor Awards recognize DOE employees and contractors for their service and contributions to the department’s mission and the benefit of the nation. This year, the DOE honored 44 teams with the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award and five individuals received the Secretary of Energy Excellence Award. The full list of LLNL winners can be viewed here.

LLNL was honored for the following teams:

Capsule Gain on the National Ignition Facility Team

In recognition of achieving a capsule gain greater than one on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility, the “Capsule Gain on the National Ignition Facility” team is awarded the Secretary of Energy's Achievement Award. This groundbreaking achievement was the result of the team's combined efforts, including developing the design with target physics, setting target and laser requirements, developing specialized measurement techniques, fielding the experiments and interpreting the data, developing code to support the design studies and data comparisons to simulations, analyzing data with target diagnostics, target fabrication to build and characterize the targets and the National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser's ability to deliver the NIF laser power with the required accuracy. The experiment on August 8, 2021, achieved a target gain of 0.72 (1.37 MJ of fusion for 1.92 MJ of laser energy delivered to the hohlraum) and a capsule gain of 5.8 (1.37 MJ for 236 kJ of X-ray energy absorbed by the capsule), putting the NIF experiments on the threshold of ignition. Subsequent experiments to assess the variability of this platform resulted in yields ranging from 0.43MJ to 0.70MJ. This performance variability has been attributed to a combination of larger unintentional odd mode implosion asymmetry and higher mix. These experiments show that ignition is possible at NIF, advance the possibility of achieving high yields (100+MJ) in the laboratory, and enable new studies of the thermonuclear fusion process critical for understanding the performance and survivability of our nuclear stockpile.

Electron Beam Cold Hearth Melting Realization Team

The multi-site, multidisciplinary group of nominees demonstrated remarkable teamwork and determination to rapidly realize Electron Beam Cold Hearth Melting (EBCHM) for the production of U-6Nb ingots. Within 18 months, the team was able to move from procurement to demonstrating EBCHM ingot production from both raw materials and from recycling scrap feeds. The team procured and delivered equipment to Y-12, completed installation, performed commissioning and process prove-in using surrogate non-radiological metals, transitioned to radiological activities and melted and cast multiple ingots of the DU alloy using both scrap and traditional alloying feedstock (pencils). This remarkable accomplishment required finding solutions to a number of technological, safety and security, contracting and staffing challenges. In particular, the team recognized the technology maturation acceleration possible by fielding the equipment at the production agency facility instead of the planned design agency site and was able to pivot the plan to that end. Overcoming these challenges required the considerable cross-site leadership, dedication and agility to realizing the benefit EBCHM represented. This accomplishment represents a significant advancement for improving the resilience of the enterprise by adding capacity and resilience to a critical production line and offering the potential to significantly reduce supply chain risks through recycling scrap U-6Nb.

Exascale Computing Facility Modernization Project Team

In recognition of the extraordinary planning and execution of the Exascale Computing Facility Modernization Project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the team is awarded the Secretary of Energy's Achievement Award. This team delivered significant power and cooling upgrades to the Bldg. 453 facility in the Livermore Computing Complex necessary to support the powerful exascale computers coming online in 2023. In partnership with key contractors, the team's careful planning and safe, efficient execution led to completion nine months ahead of schedule and $9 million under budget. This accomplishment is a key requirement for continued and sustained computing leadership in the NNSA for the exascale era and beyond.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Emergency Operations Center Delivery Team

The Secretary of Energy's Achievement Award was granted to the team responsible for delivering the $30 million, state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in recognition of their efforts to bring  LLNL’s emergency response operations, management and alarms monitoring of Lab critical systems under one roof. The facility comprises approximately 20,550 square feet of office space for Emergency Management Department staff and a central control room for Emergency Response Organization personnel. It was designed for self-sufficient operation for a minimum of 72 hours without support from Lab site infrastructure or services. Construction on the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) began in October. 2020 and finished in December 2021, under budget and months ahead of schedule. The Department of Energy-funded project was part of an NNSA pilot program — Enhanced Minor Construction and Commercial Practices (EMC2) — aimed at streamlining delivery of commercial type, non-nuclear projects with price tags under $50 million. LLNL’s EOC is one of three similar emergency operations centers commissioned at NNSA sites under the pilot model — the others being the Y-12 National Security Complex and Sandia National Laboratories — and the first to be completed.

National Ignition Facility (NIF) Fused Silica Debris Shields Implementation Team 

In recognition for the successful implementation and production operation of fused silica debris shield (FSDS) optics in 48 of the 192 total beamlines on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The NIF laser is an experimental facility that creates extreme temperatures (100 million degrees) and pressures (100 billion atmospheres) used to study conditions relevant to the nuclear stockpile in the absence of further underground tests including the fusion process (also relevant to fusion energy) and other high energy density science research. The objective of this FSDS optic is to further reduce the amount of laser damage, and hence extend lifetime, of a critical optic, called the grating debris shield, by blocking laser damage causing particulate debris. The use of FSDS optics has demonstrated about 100 times reduction in laser damage on the grating debris shield that is enabling a more sustainable NIF shot operation and ultimately increased shot rate. This mitigation also serves a foundation to enable even higher energy and power on NIF. The implementation and production operation of the FSDS includes: developing an understanding of the mechanism of debris transport and laser damage, creating a robust optics supply, designing and executing an efficient install/deinstall process, developing processes for in-situ monitoring and removal criteria and successfully implementing a production loop. The recent success of the FSDS in 48 beamlines is being expanded to be implemented in all beamlines on NIF.