U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and other dignitaries will attend the dedication ceremony for the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory today.
Livermore Lab broke ground on the facility, which has a 192-beam laser, in 1997.
Lab officials say the laser facility has three major missions:
Research to support the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile;
Research into the origins of the universe, and,
Research to help pave the way for the future use of fusion energy.
The lab's first ignition attempt is set for 2010 and it has a goal of reaching nuclear fusion, which is energy produced by fusing atoms together, in 2011.
In a statement, Garamendi and DeRionne Pollard, the president of Las Positas College in Livermore, said the dedication of the facility "is a watershed event opening a new era of scientific research into the nature of our universe and, quite possibly, the era of fusion power."
They said the facility's initial task "will be to provide a better understanding of the safety and reliability of our nation's nuclear weapons."
The project is opposed by a Livermore-based group called Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.
The group said in a statement that the facility is $4 billion over its original budget, construction is 9 years behind schedule and its mission to advance the design of nuclear weapons is being ignored.
The dedication ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. today.