Recommendation 4-9: An engineering science and technology development component should be included in a national inertial fusion energy program.
Conclusion 4-15: The National Ignition Facility (NIF), designed for stockpile stewardship applications, is also of great potential importance for advancing the technical basis for inertial fusion energy (IFE) research.
For a national IFE program, NIF can be utilized for ignition optimization and for demonstration of reactor-scale gain and of reactor-scale gain with more cost-effective targets, as the target physics of direct drive and indirect drive advance technically. Furthermore, modification of NIF to accommodate polar direct drive would not preclude further experiments with indirect drive. This appears to be consistent with the NNSA strategy following completion of the NIC.15
Recommendation 4-10: Planning should begin for making effective use of the National Ignition Facility as one of the major program elements in an assessment of the feasibility of inertial fusion energy.
With the approach described here, there needs to be a serious discussion about how such a program should be managed. Certainly it is the prerogative and responsibility of DOE to make such a decision. However, in the interests of cost-effectiveness and efficiency, the committee is of the opinion that a single programmatic office should be established. The committee recognizes that, for an extended period, some overlap will likely continue with programs needed for stockpile stewardship, but that an early effort will be required to facilitate the transition to a national IFE program and to minimize the potential for some overlap.
Conclusion 4-16: At the present time, there is no single administrative home within the Department of Energy that has been invested with the responsibility for administering a national inertial fusion energy R&D program.
Recommendation 4-11: In the event that ignition is achieved on the National Ignition Facility or another facility, and assuming that there is a federal commitment to establish a national inertial fusion energy R&D program, the Department of Energy should develop plans to administer such a national program (including both science and technology research) through a single program office.
15 J. Quintenz, NNSA, Presentation to the committee on February 22, 2012, and LLNL, 2012, “Polar Drive Ignition Campaign Conceptual Design,” LLNL TR-553311, submitted to NNSA in April 2012 by LLNL and revised and submitted to NNSA by LLE in September 2012.