The interaction physics of intracavity laser heated particles has been analyzed for the case of a moderate power (20 kW), high repetition rate ($OM 12 kHz) Nd:YAG laser oscillator producing low energy ($OM 10-5 J) optical pulses at (lambda) = 1.06 (mu) . The particles considered in this work are contaminants that inadvertently become attached to intracavity optical surfaces lying within the beam line of the laser during the course of assembly and test. Computer simulations were written to describe the behavior of a variety of dielectric, refractory, and metallic particles when irradiated with small diameter ($OM 10-2 cm), high intensity (108 W/cm2) intracavity laser radiation. The simulations have shown that owing to the small laser beam diameters, contaminating intracavity particles larger than 5 (mu) can affect the dynamics of Nd:YAG laser oscillation, causing mode changes, delaying the achievement of peak laser power, and reducing performance. Significant heating of the particles may occur during the relatively short ($OM 40 ns) oscillation build-up time applicable to these laser cavities. Ablation of material, melting, and vaporization of small diameter (< 10-4 cm) particles under these intracavity laser conditions is predicted. Steady-state conditions are calculated for high repetition rate operation with the result that asymptotic particle and substrate temperatures depend upon the thermal properties of the optical substrates. Operating regimes for which laser heated particle damage does not occur were determined.