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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE PROSPECTS FOR

INERTIAL FUSION ENERGY

Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Board on Energy and Environmental Systems
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                          OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
washington, D.C
www.napedu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS     500 Fifth Street, NW     Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

Support for this project was provided by Contract 10NA001274 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agencies that provided support for the project.

Cover: Ultraviolet laser beams aim at a fuel pellet before they implode it in the OMEGA laser target chamber. © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-27081-6
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-27081-2

Copies of this report are available free of charge from:

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Copyright 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

 

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

COMMITTEE ON THE PROSPECTS FOR INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION ENERGY SYSTEMS

RONALD C. DAVIDSON, Princeton University, Co-Chair

GERALD L. KULCINSKI, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Co-Chair

CHARLES BAKER, University of California at San Diego (retired)

ROGER BANGERTER, E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (retired)

RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester

JAN BEYEA, Consulting in the Public Interest (CiPI)

ROBERT L. BYER, Stanford University

FRANKLIN CHANG-DIAZ, Ad Astra Rocket Company

STEVEN C. COWLEY, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

RICHARD L. GARWIN, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center

DAVID A. HAMMER, Cornell University

JOSEPH S. HEZIR, EOP Group, Inc.

KATHRYN McCARTHY, Idaho National Laboratory

LAWRENCE T. PAPAY, PQR, LLC

KEN SCHULTZ, General Atomics (retired)

ANDREW M. SESSLER, E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

JOHN SHEFFIELD, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

THOMAS A. TOMBRELLO, JR., California Institute of Technology

DENNIS G. WHYTE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

JONATHAN S. WURTELE, University of California at Berkeley

ROSA YANG, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.

MALCOLM McGEOCH, Consultant, PLEX, LLC

Staff

DAVID LANG, Program Officer, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Study Director

GREG EYRING, Senior Program Officer, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

TERI THOROWGOOD, Administrative Coordinator, Board on Physics and Astronomy

JONATHAN YANGER, Senior Project Assistant, Board on Energy and Environmental Systems

ERIN BOYD, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow (January-April 2011)

SARAH NELSON-WILK, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow (January-April 2012)

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
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JAMES LANCASTER, Director, Board on Physics and Astronomy

JAMES ZUCCHETTO, Director, Board on Energy and Environmental Systems

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

PHILIP H. BUCKSBAUM, Stanford University, Chair

DEBRA M. ELMEGREEN, Vassar College, Vice Chair

RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester

ADAM S. BURROWS, Princeton University

TODD DITMIRE, University of Texas

NATHANIEL J. FISCH, Princeton University

PAUL FLEURY, Yale University

S. JAMES GATES, University of Maryland

LAURA H. GREENE, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

MARTHA P. HAYNES, Cornell University

MARK B. KETCHEN, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center

MONICA OLVERA de la CRUZ, Northwestern University

PAUL SCHECHTER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

BORIS SHRAIMAN, Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics

MICHAEL S. TURNER, University of Chicago

ELLEN D. WILLIAMS, BP International

MICHAEL WITHERELL, University of California at Santa Barbara

Staff

JAMES LANCASTER, Director

DONALD C. SHAPERO, Senior Scholar

DAVID LANG, Program Officer

CARYN JOY KNUTSEN, Associate Program Officer

TERI THOROWGOOD, Administrative Coordinator

BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

BOARD ON ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS

ANDREW BROWN, JR., Delphi Corporation, Chair

WILLIAM BANHOLZER, The Dow Chemical Company

MARILYN BROWN, Georgia Institute of Technology

WILLIAM CAVANAUGH, Progress Energy (retired), Raleigh, North Carolina

PAUL A. DeCOTIS, Long Island Power Authority

CHRISTINE EHLIG-ECONOMIDES, Texas A&M University, College Station

SHERRI GOODMAN, CNA, Alexandria, Virginia

NARAIN HINGORANI, Consultant, San Mateo, California

ROBERT J. HUGGETT, College of William and Mary (retired), Seaford, Virginia

DEBBIE A. NIEMEIER, University of California at Davis

DANIEL NOCERA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, Princeton University

DAN REICHER, Stanford University

BERNARD ROBERTSON, DaimlerChrysler Corporation (retired), Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

GARY ROGERS, FEV, Inc., Auburn Hills, Michigan

ALISON SILVERSTEIN, Consultant, Pflugerville, Texas

MARK THIEMENS, University of California at San Diego

RICHARD WHITE, Oppenheimer & Company, New York

Staff

JAMES J. ZUCCHETTO, Director

DANA CAINES, Financial Associate

DAVID COOKE, Associate Program Officer

ALAN CRANE, Senior Scientist

JOHN HOLMES, Senior Program Officer/Associate Director

LaNITA JONES, Administrative Coordinator

ALICE WILLIAMS, Senior Project Assistant

JONATHAN YANGER, Senior Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

Preface

Recent scientific and technological progress in inertial confinement fusion (ICF), together with the National Ignition Campaign (NIC) to achieve the important milestone of ignition on the National Ignition Facility (NIF), motivated the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of the Under Secretary for Science to request that the National Research Council (NRC) undertake a study to assess the prospects for inertial fusion energy (IFE) and provide advice on the preparation of a research and development (R&D) roadmap leading to an IFE demonstration plant. The statement of task for the full NRC study reads as follows:

The Committee will prepare a report that will:

  • Assess the prospects for generating power using inertial confinement fusion;
  • Identify scientific and engineering challenges, cost targets, and R&D objectives associated with developing an IFE demonstration plant; and
  • Advise the U.S. Department of Energy on its development of an R&D roadmap aimed at creating a conceptual design for an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant.

In response to this request, the NRC established the Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems. As part of the study, the sponsor also requested that the NRC provide an interim report to assist it in formulating its budget request for future budget cycles (see Appendix B). The interim report had a limited scope and was released in March 2012.1

__________________________

1 National Research Council, 2012. Interim Report—Status of the Study “An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy,” The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13371.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

The committee’s final report represents the consensus of the committee after six meetings (see Appendix C for the meeting agendas). The first four meetings were concerned mainly with information gathering through presentations, while the final two meetings focused on carrying out a detailed analysis of the many important topics needed to complete the committee’s assessment.

This report describes and assesses the current status of inertial fusion energy research in the United States, identifies the scientific and engineering challenges associated with developing inertial confinement fusion as an energy source, compares the various technical approaches, and, finally, provides guidance on an R&D roadmap at the conceptual level for a national program aimed at the design and construction of an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant, including approximate estimates, where possible, of the funding required at each stage. At the outset of the study, the committee decided that the fusion-fission hybrid concept was outside the scope of the study. While they are certainly interesting subjects of study, comparisons of inertial fusion energy to magnetic fusion energy or any other potential or available energy technologies (such as wind or nuclear fission) were also outside the committee’s purview.

Although the committee carried out its work in an unclassified environment, it was recognized that some of the research relevant to the prospects for inertial fusion energy was conducted under the auspices of the nation’s nuclear weapons program and has been classified. Therefore, the NRC established the separate Panel on the Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Targets to explore the extent to which past and ongoing classified research affects the prospects for practical inertial fusion energy systems. The panel was also tasked with analyzing the nuclear proliferation risks associated with IFE; although that analysis was not available for inclusion in the interim report, the committee reviewed the panel’s principal conclusions and recommendations on proliferation, and these are included in this final report of the committee.

The target physics panel exchanged unclassified information informally with the committee in the course of the study process, and the committee was aware of the panel’s conclusions and recommendations as they evolved.

The panel produced both a classified and an unclassified report; the latter was timed so as to be available to inform this committee’s final report; the Summary of the panel’s unclassified report (prepublication version) is included as Appendix H. The statement of task for the panel is given in Appendix B and the panel’s meeting agendas appear in Appendix C. The panel’s unclassified report, Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion Targets, is being released simultaneously with this, the committee’s final report.

Over the course of the study, the inertial confinement fusion community provided detailed information on the current status and potential prospects for all aspects of IFE. This information and the associated interactions with the

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
×

community were essential to the committee’s work. We, as co-chairs of the committee, recognize the enormous amount of time and effort involved in this contribution and thank the community for its extensive input and help with its task. Finally, we are particularly grateful to the members of this committee who worked so diligently over nearly 2 years to produce this report.

Finally, we would like to express our deep appreciation to the staff at the NRC, particularly to David Lang and Greg Eyring, for their highly professional contributions at every stage of the committee’s deliberations and preparation of the report. We are truly indebted to them for their insights and extraordinary contributions throughout the entire process.


Ronald C. Davidson, Co-Chair
Gerald L. Kulcinski, Co-Chair
Committee on the Prospects for Inertial
Confinement Fusion Energy Systems

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
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Acknowledgment of Reviewers

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Douglas M. Chapin, MPR Associates;

Philip Clark, GPU Nuclear Corporation (retired);

Michael I. Corradini, University of Wisconsin;

Todd Ditmire, University of Texas at Austin;

R. Paul Drake, University of Michigan;

Douglas Eardley, University of California at Santa Barbara;

Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research;

Gregory Moses, University of Wisconsin;

Burton Richter, Stanford University;

Robert H. Socolow, Princeton University;

Frank N. von Hippel, Princeton University; and

Steven Zinkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2013. An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18289.
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Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Louis J. Lanzerotti, New Jersey Institute of Technology. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

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The potential for using fusion energy to produce commercial electric power was first explored in the 1950s. Harnessing fusion energy offers the prospect of a nearly carbon-free energy source with a virtually unlimited supply of fuel. Unlike nuclear fission plants, appropriately designed fusion power plants would not produce the large amounts of high-level nuclear waste that requires long-term disposal. Due to these prospects, many nations have initiated research and development (R&D) programs aimed at developing fusion as an energy source. Two R&D approaches are being explored: magnetic fusion energy (MFE) and inertial fusion energy (IFE).

An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy describes and assesses the current status of IFE research in the United States; compares the various technical approaches to IFE; and identifies the scientific and engineering challenges associated with developing inertial confinement fusion (ICF) in particular as an energy source. It also provides guidance on an R&D roadmap at the conceptual level for a national program focusing on the design and construction of an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant.

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