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Under construction for 20 years, a major scientific facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory is living up to its name.The Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DARHT) has operated its first axis of one electron accelerator beam since 1999. This week, DARHT won approval to begin operating with its second linear accelerator, achieving dual axis status at last.“We’ll be doing our first dual-axis hydro test this summer,” said Ray Scarpetti, the DARHT Axis Two project director. “We’ve been generating an intense beam, very reliably and very repeatably, but we were not authorized to do X-rays.”DARHT was intended to be a key ingredient in assuring the reliability of stockpiled nuclear weapons in the absence of testing, but with only one wing it has played only a minor role until now.The laboratory announced Tuesday that test firings of the second axis electron beam could begin as early as this week, scaling up to a full-blown test of the two beams performing in concert within months.DARHT uses accelerated electrons to produce high energy X-rays that can peer inside a mock nuclear implosion.The second axis produces a 17-million-volt electron beam for 1.5 millionth of a second, according to the laboratory press release.
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