It is not yet clear that the work at SNL will ultimately result in the high gain predicted by computer simulations, but initial results are promising and it is the panel’s opinion that significant progress in the physics may be made in a year’s time. The pulsed-power approach is unique in that its goal is to deliver a large amount of energy (~10 MJ) to targets with good efficiency (.10 percent) and to generate large fusion yields at low repetition rates.
Current targets for inertial confinement fusion experiments tend to be one-off designs, with specifications that change according to the experiments being run. In contrast, targets for future IFE power plants will have to have standard, low-cost designs that are mass-produced in numbers as high as a million targets per day per power plant. The panel examined the technical feasibility of producing targets for various drivers, including limited aspects of fabrication for IFE. However, a full examination of the issues of mass production and low cost is the province of the NRC IFE committee study.
CONCLUSION 4-7: In general, the science and engineering of manufacturing fusion targets for laser-based ICF are well advanced and meet the needs of those experiments, although additional technologies may be needed for IFE. Extrapolating this status to predict the success of manufacturing IFE targets is reasonable if the target is only slightly larger than the ICF target and the process is scalable. However, subtle additions to the design of the ICF target to improve its performance (greater yield) and survivability in an IFE power plant may significantly affect the manufacturing paradigm.
Proliferation Risks of IFE
Many modern nuclear weapons rely on a fusion stage as well as a fission stage, and there has been discussion of the potential for host state proliferation—particularly vertical proliferation—associated with the siting of an IFE power plant. The panel was asked to evaluate the proliferation risks associated with IFE, particularly with regard to IFE targets.
CONCLUSION 3-1: At present, there are more proliferation concerns associated with indirect-drive targets than with direct-drive targets. However, the spread of technology around the world may eventually render these concerns moot. Remaining concerns are likely to focus on the use of classified codes for target design.