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Executive Summary This report was commissioned by the Secretary of Energy. It summarizes the main features of atomic vapor laser isotope separation (AVLIS) technology and subsystems; evaluates applications, beyond those of uranium enrichment, suggested by Lawrence Liverm ore National Laboratory (LLNL3 and a wide range of U.S. industries and individuals; recommends further work on several applications; recommends the provision of facilities for evaluating potential new applications; and recommends the full involvement of end users from the very beginning in the development of any application Specifically excluded from this report is an evaluation of the main AVLIS minions, uranium ennthment and purification of plutonium for weapons. In evaluating many of the alternative applications, it become clear that industry should play a greater and earlier role In the definition and development of tec hnologtes within the Department of Energy (DOE) if the nation is to derive significant commercial benefit. Accordingly, the committee recommends: · Active participation by end users in setting directions, schedules, objectives, fullding, and goals should be mandated for DOE technology programs in which DOE Is not the ultimate end user. · In order to foster technology transfer, U.S. industry should design and manufacture as many components and subsystems as is practical. Applications of AVLIS to the separation of alternate (nonuranium) isotopes were considered. The use of i57Gd as a burnable poison in the nuclear fuel pyde, the use of :2C for isotopically pure diamond, and the use of plutonium isotopes for several nonweapons applications are examples of commercially useful products that might be produced at a cost less than the product value. The committee recommends that: . Separation of i5'G] by AVLIS should be investigated following the successful separation of uranium. The use of ~5'Gd in nuclear fuels has the potential to increase fuel burnup, with consequent reductions in uranium use and nuclear waste. · If DOE proceeds toward a modernized plutonium facility, AVLIS-related technology should be considered . for the specialized separations required for the plutonium isotopes 238pU, 242PU, and 244Pu. A collaboration between DOE and industrial and un~versi~ scientists should be established to evaluate the production of isotopicaBy pure diamond. Separations of other isotopes such as the elemental constituents of semiconductors were suggested; it is recommended that proposed applications be tested by using existing supplies to establish their value before more efficient enrichment processes are developed. Some applications are clear, but their production costs are too high, the window of opportunity in the market has passed, or societal constraints (e.g., on reprocessing of reactor fuel) discourage Implementation. The AVLIS program has made substantial advances in areas such as laser technology, associated components and subsystems. and handing and control of high-temperature corrosive materials. These capabilities exist at LLNL, are expensive to reproduce, and provide a national resource with potential for offering a competitive advantage to U.S. industries. The committee thus recommends that: The AVLIS program should expand the effort to make appropriate U.S. government and industrial orations aware of specialized component and subsystem technologies developed under the program and make such technologies available as warranted. LLNL should establish a user facility to provide bee time and te~cal support for utilization of the AVLIS laser systems, which would allow evaluation of new applications at little added cost. One example is the use of AVLIS lacer technology in materials working. ..~... . . . ~ . . ~ ~ · LLNL should make the services of the High Temperature Corrosion team and its facilities available to U.S. industry on a consultative or collaborative basis.
2 These three recommendations provide promising ways to use investment in AVLIS to strengthen U.S. industry A legal mechan~s~n already exists for its implementation--the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement In ad of the applications of AVLIS technology and subsystems, it win be crucial that the end user be a filll participant in each research team, in all planning and decision Malone and in funding. Only in this way will management decisions be governed by the ultimate market potential for a research and development program rather than by the perpetuation of the program for its con sake.