A three-part plan to protect and expand the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics is gathering steam.

Photo credit: University of Rochester

On a visit to the Laser Lab, Sen. Charles Schumer said he plans to call on Congress to include $75 million in federal funding for the LLE in the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill. Schumer also expects to ask the Department of Energy to approve a new five-year cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration  and the Laser Lab in an effort to protect the laboratory. He also mentioned inviting NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty to tour the LLE’s OMEGA Laser Facility.

“Turning out the lights on the laser lab is a horrible idea, and I promise you, it will not happen under my watch,” Schumer said.

The Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget, announced last month, proposed significant cuts to the lab and a “three-year ramp-down” in federal support. During his visit, Schumer praised the LLE for creating jobs and advancing scientific research in physics, optics, and photonics.

“The Laser Lab is vital not only to Rochester but to the United States and our national security,” Schumer said. “We lead the world in physical science research, including technology, because we’ve invested in the hard sciences. It’s the future of America.”

Created in 1970, the laboratory is home to the Omega laser facility, the most powerful laser facility housed at any university and one of the most powerful of its kind in the world.

The OMEGA system includes a 60-beam, high-peak-power laser.  A second four-beam system known as OMEGA EP became operational in 2008. The $100 million-plus facility can produce laser powers of over 1,000-billion watts, and has kept the lab’s facilities at the cutting edge of laser-science technology.