CONCLUSIONS

  • Although the development of nuclear fusion faces considerable uncertainties, it should be pursued and reevaluated in 5 years. By that time, large scientific breakeven experiments in both magnetic and inertial confinement will have been attempted. More realistic engineering designs and guidance for further research on technological obstacles should then emerge naturally.

  • Principal attention should be directed first to the problems of pure fusion reactors, before the question of fusion-fission hybrids is considered.

  • The immature state of fusion research and development offers the opportunity to given attention to the environmental and safety characteristics in the earliest stages of design. Consideration of these characteristics is so important to decisions on major investments in fusion that the opportunity should not be wasted.

  • A small effort should be directed to fuel cycles other than deuteriumtritium. Pure deuterium has a much lower reaction rate but no critical tritium regeneration problem, and it wreaks less structural damage from high-energy neutrons. In the so-called neutronless fuel cycles, all particles and products are electrically charged, and in theory there is no radioactivity. Smaller devices might be built, but the required plasma temperatures are much higher, and the energy balance is probably unfavorable.

  • High priority should be given to study and testing of structural materials, and assessments of their availability must be undertaken.

  • Research and development in nuclear fusion has enjoyed singularly fruitful international cooperation. This cooperation should be encouraged and extended to speed progress and reduce the cost to each individual country.

NOTES

  

1. For an overview of fusion’s long-term prospects, see J.P.Holdren, “Fusion Energy in Context: Its Fitness for the Long Term,” Science 200 (1978):168–180.

  

2. D.J.Rose and M.Feirtag, “The Prospects for Fusion,” Technology Review, December 1976, pp. 20–43. See also the report of the Fusion Assessment Resource Group of the Supply and Delivery Panel: National Research Council, Supporting Paper 3: Controlled Nuclear Fusion: Current Research and Potential Progress, Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems, Supply and Delivery Panel, Fusion Assessment Resource Group (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1978).

  

3. Uses have also been proposed for the neutrons and radiation produced by D-T fusion; for example, radiolysis of water to yield hydrogen, or transmutation of radioactive fission products to shorter-lived or stable isotopes.

  

4. From the report of the Fusion Assessment Resource Group of the Supply and Delivery Panel (see note 2).



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