For immediate release: 02/21/2013 | NR-13-02-07
National Academies recommend high priority for work on Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility
Calif. -- A report issued by the National Research Council highlights the
significant impact of successful development of inertial fusion energy (IFE),
and recommends priorities for future research in this area.
in this National Academies' report, "The potential benefits of inertial
confinement fusion energy (abundant fuel, minimal greenhouse gas emissions,
limited high-level radioactive waste requiring long-term disposal) provide a compelling
rationale for establishing inertial fusion energy R&D as part of the
long-term U.S. energy R&D portfolio."
into IFE is a key objective of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's
National Ignition Facility (NIF) -- the world's premier research facility in
this area of science and technology. The NIF was built by the National Nuclear
Security Administration (NNSA) primarily to provide data in support of its
defense programs, but also has broad applications in basic science and fusion
National Academies state that "The National Ignition Facility, designed for
stockpile stewardship applications, also is of great potential importance for
advancing the technical basis for inertial fusion energy (IFE) research," and
that the target physics programs on the NIF (and related facilities) "should
receive continued high priority."
near-term goal of the NIF is to demonstrate "ignition," or energy breakeven,
which would mark the culmination of more than 50 years of effort and is a
principal research pillar of the NNSA's mission.
perspective of energy applications, in the view of the Academies, this would be
the "appropriate time for the establishment of a national, coordinated,
broad-based inertial fusion energy program."
of important conclusions and recommendations have been drawn by the Academies on the
impact and future direction of this field. They note that there is unanimity
among the expert review committees on NIF's potential to achieve ignition. The
committee asserts that while NIF has not yet achieved ignition (since its
construction in 2009) that does not lessen the long-term technical prospects
for IFE. They go further, noting that "[s]o far as target physics is
concerned, it is a modest step from NIF scale to IFE scale."
As a result, they recommend that, "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." They state that this should include appropriate economic analyses of inertial fusion power plants, within a comprehensive system engineering approach.