17 Jun 2002
Controversy over laser glass shipments to National Ignition Facility remains a mystery
by Michael Hatcher, Opto & Laser Europe magazine
Hoya Optics, US, is refusing to comment on reports that its Japanese parent company has suspended shipments of laser glass bound for the US-based National Ignition Facility (NIF). Public concern in Japan that the NIF project violates the global nuclear-weapons test-ban treaty, which the US has not signed, is thought to have prompted the current position.
The 192-beam NIF project is designed to test the reliability of nuclear weapons without the need for full explosive tests. US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) spokeswoman Susan Houghton said: "Hoya senior management informed LLNL of reports in the Japanese press regarding Hoya's role in supplying laser glass to the NIF. We are respecting Hoya's request that it resolves this issue through its corporate offices in Japan. We are confident that Hoya senior management will be able to resolve any questions regarding the NIF project and its missions."
Hoya also supplies optics to the French Commissariat À L'Energie Atomique (CAE), for its Megajoule project. A spokesperson for CAE expressed concern over the dispute, but added, "Although we have the same problem as NIF, we are not in urgent need of doped glass at the moment as we are only building a prototype."
Hoya is also reported to share its optics shipments to NIF with Schott Glass, Germany.