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INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION 60 3 Inertial Confinement Fusion INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND The goal of fusion research is to develop a reliable alternative to the present burning of fossil fuels for energy. In the inertial confinement approach to fusion, high-intensity laser or charged-particle beams are used to compress and heat the fusion fuel to the density and temperature required for fusion of the nuclei. The fusion of deuterium and tritium is schematically illustrated in Figure 3.1. The pursuit of inertial confinement fusion (ICF) depends on many phenomena associated with plasma science. The interaction of radiation with matter in the plasma state and the subsequent energy transport and high-density compression leading to thermonuclear burning of the plasma fuel must be optimally balanced. Nonlinear collective effects must be understood and accommodated. The international goal is to achieve an environmentally improved source of electrical power generation. The majority of the program continues to be implemented in the nuclear weapons laboratories, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. New large-scale facilities and facility upgrades are currently envisioned with funding authorizations at various stages. Support for the underlying basic plasma science and the breadth of the involved community should be strengthened. The role of basic plasma research within the ICF program may be at a crossroads, requiring timely reexamination.