Falling short of achieving its namesake milestone after two years, the National Ignition Facility will now have to share more of its beam time with other weapons science and fundamental research experiments. The $3.5 billion NIF, completed in 2009, was built to create ignition, in which the energy released by fusion exceeds the energy input. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were expected to have accomplished that by 30 September, the end of the fiscal year. But an external review team reported in July that the milestone almost certainly won’t be met even by the end of calendar year 2012.

A Department of Energy official says that DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration will not extend the National Ignition Campaign, which formally began in October 2010, into fiscal year 2013. Instead, it’s expected that NIF will “serve other interests equitably, as opposed to ignition over all else,” says the official. Planning...

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