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FESAC Panel Urges Balanced Inertial Fusion Energy Effort

March 29, 2004

A panel of the Department of Energy's Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC), charged with reviewing its Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) program, has urged the Department to carry out "a coordinated program with some level of research on all the key components (targets, drivers and chambers), always keeping the end product and its explicit requirements in mind." The wording is intended to call attention to the fact the DOE recently announced termination of all its efforts on targets and chambers for IFE as part of its plan to end all work on Fusion Technology (FPN04-17).

The panel noted that there are three main approaches to IFE, based on heavy ion accelerators, lasers, and z-pinches. They said, "The recent progress related to these approaches is substantial and the quality of science and engineering research is excellent." They said, "All approaches are currently on track for developing the science and technology to properly evaluate their potential for IFE. However, the planned termination of technology programs in support of the heavy ion approach is not consistent with their importance to heavy ion IFE, and the Panel is concerned about the impact of this action."

The Panel said that "each of the approaches to IFE may benefit if the technique of Fast Ignition proves effective. However, since fast ignition is at an early stage of development it would be premature for any of the IFE approaches to rely on the success of fast ignition to achieve an attractive fusion energy system."

"In sum," the Panel said, "the IFE Panel is of the unanimous opinion that the IFE program is technically excellent and that it contributes in ways that are noteworthy to the ongoing missions of the DOE. Moreover, the Panel agrees with the IFE community that the most efficient way to achieve the ultimate goal of fusion energy is to carry out a coordinated program with some level of research on all of the key components (targets, drivers, and chambers), always keeping the end product and its explicit requirements in mind."

The Panel also noted that "the scientific and technical challenges posed by IFE, along with their many connections to high energy density physics, have attracted many outstanding researchers from academia as well as federal laboratories. Success will depend on sustaining the commitment and involvement of such people in a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines."

The full FESAC endorsed the Panel report at it meeting March 29, and transmitted it to DOE Office of Science Director Ray Orbach.

Copies of the Executive Summary are available from Fusion Power Associates (fpa@fusionpwrassoc.org).