Lab signs cooperative contracts with Russians

The Laboratory signed two contracts recently in Moscow that will assist Russian weapons experts from the closed city of Snezhinsk in their transition to civilian employment. (A closed city is a formerly secret city where nuclear weapons research was conducted.) The projects include developing oil production technology and improving Russia's fiber-optic cables for the commercial market. Both contracts were signed by representatives of the Laboratory and SPEKTR, a State Unitary Enterprise.
When oil wells are drilled, they are lined with metal casings that support the surrounding geology and prevent gas, oil, and water from mixing in the well. SPEKTR, which already provides explosive charges for perforating the casings to allow oil to flow effectively at selected depths will use the approximately $220,000 in U.S. support over the next year to develop perforation technologies that apply to diverse geologic conditions and casings.
Under the second agreement, SPEKTR will raise to world standards the quality of its multimode optical fiber, demonstrate production capability to satisfy commercial demands, and develop relationships with cable suppliers to commercialize its product.
The two new contracts are part of U.S.-Russian strategic plans for the city of Snezhinsk under the auspices of the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI), a Department of Energy effort to help the Russian government provide civilian employment opportunities to weapons scientists in closed Russian nuclear cities. The goal of the NCI is to enable Russian scientists to remain in their homeland and work on sustainable civilian and commercial projects as facilities in Russia's weapons complex are downsized or closed.
The All-Russian Research Institute of Technical Physics also agreed in principle to form an open computer center at Snezhinsk. Lawrence Livermore and the institute will work toward a contract to begin a commercial software and scientific computations effort. Skilled Russian software engineers working at the center will be able to relieve some of the worldwide shortage of programming talent. High-speed Internet lines will connect the center with customers inside and outside Russia, just as they do at other commercial software development centers around the world.
The Laboratory has also signed an agreement to assist the Avangard plant in the closed city of Sarov in converting from nuclear weapons manufacturing to the production of kidney dialysis equipment. A non-Russian firm, which has asked not to be identified for proprietary reasons, will purchase and market three components manufactured by Avangard for use in machines distributed worldwide. The hope is that as a result of this U.S.-Russian agreement, Russian-made parts and eventually systems will make kidney dialysis more available to Russians.
Contact: Bill Dunlop (925) 422-9390 (dunlop1@llnl.gov).

Breakthrough in laser glass manufacture

A major laser glass milestone has been achieved for the Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) thanks to extensive research and development spearheaded by the Laboratory and two leading high-technology glass vendors.
Schott Glass Technologies, based in Duryea, Pennsylvania, has successfully demonstrated a process to ensure continuous production of economical, high-optical-quality, neodymium-doped, phosphate laser glass needed for NIF. A second vendor, Hoya Corp. in Fremont, California, began similar glass-melting operations in April.
Schott has produced more than 20 of the glass slabs needed for NIF's demanding optical specifications-at a rate 20 times faster than is possible using existing one-slab-at-a-time batch-melting technology.
More than 3,500 laser glass slabs will be needed for NIF. Each slab is about 80 centimeters long, 45 centimeters wide, and 4 centimeters thick and weighs about 37 kilograms.
The costs for developing the continuous melting process have been shared equally by Livermore and the French Commissariat à L'Energie Atomique (CEA). CEA plans to purchase a similar quantity of slabs for its Laser Megajoule to be constructed later in this decade.
In 1999, Schott and Hoya demonstrated the feasibility of continuous-melt production, but certain glass specifications were not achieved at that time. In particular, the glass contained trace quantities of contamination from small amounts of moisture in the surrounding air and in the initial glass raw materials. And attempts to remove the moisture-derived contamination degraded other glass properties.
Recently, however, Livermore, Schott, and Hoya have carried out cooperative research aimed at reducing moisture contamination. Schott first demonstrated the success of this research and the improved technology, which both vendors will use to manufacture the laser glass for NIF and Laser Megajoule.
Contact: Ed Moses (925) 423-9624 (moses1@llnl.gov).
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