Interim Report—Status of the Study
“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
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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 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 view of the agency that provided support for the project.
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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, San Diego (retired)
ROGER BANGERTER, E. O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (retired)
RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester
JAN BEYEA, Consulting in the Public Interest
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 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, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
THOMAS A. TOMBRELLO, JR., California Institute of Technology
DENNIS G. WHYTE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
JONATHAN S. WURTELE, University of California, Berkeley
ROSA YANG, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.
MALCOLM McGEOCH, Consultant, PLEX, LLC
DAVID LANG, Program Officer, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Study Director
GREG EYRING, 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 & Technology Policy Graduate Fellow (January-April, 2011)
DONALD C. SHAPERO, Director, Board on Physics and Astronomy
JAMES ZUCCHETTO, Director, Board on Energy and Environmental Systems
BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY
ADAM S. BURROWS, Princeton University, Chair
PHILIP H. BUCKSBAUM, Stanford University, Vice Chair
RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester
JAMES DRAKE, University of Maryland
JAMES EISENSTEIN, California Institute of Technology
DEBRA M. ELMEGREEN, Vassar College
PAUL FLEURY, Yale University
STUART FREEDMAN, University of California, Berkeley
LAURA H. GREENE, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
MARTHA P. HAYNES, Cornell University
JOSEPH HEZIR, EOP Group, Inc.
MARK B. KETCHEN, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
JOSEPH LYKKEN, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
HOMER A. NEAL, University of Michigan
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
DONALD C. SHAPERO, Director
JAMES LANCASTER, Associate Director
DAVID LANG, Program Officer
CARYN JOY KNUTSEN, Associate Program Officer
TERI THOROWGOOD, Administrative Coordinator
BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate
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, New York State Energy R&D Authority
CHRISTINE EHLIG-ECONOMIDES, Texas A&M University
SHERRI GOODMAN, CNA, Alexandria, Virginia
NARAIN HINGORANI, Consultant, Los Altos Hills, California
ROBERT J. HUGGETT, College of William and Mary
DEBBIE A. NIEMEIER, University of California at Davis
DANIEL NOCERA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, Princeton University
DAN REICHER, Climate Change & Energy Initiatives, Google.org
BERNARD ROBERTSON, DaimlerChrysler Corporation (retired)
GARY ROGERS, President, FEV, Inc., Auburn Hills, Michigan
ALISON SILVERSTEIN, Consultant, Pflugerville, Texas
MARK THIEMENS, University of California at San Diego
RICHARD WHITE, Oppenheimer & Company, New York, New York
JAMES J. ZUCCHETTO, Director
Recent scientific and technological progress in inertial confinement fusion (ICF), together with the campaign for achieving 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 is given in Appendix B. In response to this request, the National Research Council established the Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems.
As part of the study, the sponsor also requested that the National Research Council provide an interim report to assist it in formulating its budget request for future budget cycles (see Appendix B). This interim report, which has a limited scope and does not fully address all of the bulleted items in Appendix B, is intended to provide the sponsor with a status report on the committee’s progress and a summary of the committee’s preliminary conclusions and recommendations based on the information it received during its first four meetings (see Appendix D) and from its review of relevant reports (see Appendix E).
These four meetings were concerned mainly with information gathering through presentations, and the committee is only now carrying out the detailed analysis of the many important topics that will be included in its final report. Important topics that are not addressed in this interim report—but will be addressed to the extent possible in the final report—include an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of inertial fusion energy, a comparison of the various driver options, and 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 was outside the scope of the study.
Although the committee is carrying out its work in an unclassified environment, it was recognized that some of the research relevant to the prospects for inertial fusion energy systems has been 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 (see Appendix C) 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 (see Appendix B); although that
analysis was not available for inclusion in this interim report, the committee will review and discuss it in its final report.
The Target Physics Panel has exchanged unclassified information informally with the committee in the course of the study process, and the committee is aware of the panel’s evolving conclusions.
The panel plans to produce both a classified and an unclassified report; the timing of the latter is such that it would be available to inform this committee’s final report and would be included as an appendix in that report. The statement of task of the Target Physics Panel is given in Appendix B and the panel’s meeting agendas appear in Appendix F.
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
Stirling A. Colgate, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Robert W. Conn, The Kavli Foundation
Michael I. Corradini, University of Wisconsin
James F. Drake, Jr., University of Maryland
R. Paul Drake, University of Michigan
Harold K. Forsen, Bechtel Corporation (retired)
Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
Robert H. Socolow, Princeton University
Frank N. von Hippel, Princeton University
Stanford E. Woosley, University of California at Santa Cruz
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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