New funding secured for UR Laser Lab 

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Some 900 Rochester jobs—scientists, engineers, technicians and staff—remain secure with $83 million in federal funding for the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

The funding is critical to the groundbreaking work being done at LLE to help support the science-based stewardship of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, officials say.

Established in 1970, LLE began as a center for the investigation of the interaction of intense radiation with matter. The lab is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration as part of its Stockpile Stewardship Program. Research at the LLE is also funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration, the National Science Foundation, and New York.

For fiscal year 2022, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand and Rep. Joseph Morelle continued their support for the lab. The lawmakers secured $82 million in the previous fiscal year and $80 million in fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2019. 

“University of Rochester Laser Lab research is essential for our national security and is vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions (of dollars) into the Rochester area every year,” Schumer says. 

LLE employs 400 workers in Rochester and supporters another 500 at optics, photonics and imaging companies in the Finger Lakes region. 

The federal funding will allow LLE to support operations and experiments on the Omega laser to make progress on the three most viable approaches to fusion. The Omega laser is the most powerful laser system at an academic institution.

The dollars will also support the research programs of the Energy Department’s three National Nuclear Security Administration laboratories. As the department’s National Laser Users’ Facility, LLE hosts scientists and students across the nation and worldwide. LLE’s participation in LaserNetUS enables facility access for qualified external researchers.

With the newly allocated support, LLE will also be able to provide the needed scientific and technical support for those external users, including national laboratories and more than 400 scientists from over 50 universities that conduct research at the Omega facility, officials say.

The funds for the facility are contained in the recently passed omnibus spending package.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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