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Fusion Program Notes

December 17, 1998


More on New Fusion Review

The following are the "Terms of Reference" provided to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) for its review of the fusion program as described in FPN98-38, December 16, 1998.

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board
Terms of Reference
Task Force on Fusion Energy

Objectives and Scope

The SEAB Task Force is requested to conduct a thorough review of all the Department's fusion energy technologies, both inertial and magnetic. The review should analyze and provide recommendations on the role of each of these technologies as part of a national fusion energy research program. That analysis should address whether the current and planned resources within the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences budget are appropriately balanced among the concepts to provide the scientific basis for an informed selection of the best option for development as a fusion energy source.

In carrying out this review, SEAB Task Force should specifically take into account the relationship to international fusion energy programs, the connection of inertial fusion energy research to the stockpile stewardship activities in Defense Programs, and the broader science and educational goals that may be enabled by these fusion technologies.

Background Summary

The Department of Energy's Office of Fusion Energy Sciences manages a scientific research program, which has as its overarching mission to establish the knowledge base for an environmentally benign and economically competitive fusion energy power source. The greatest part of the research effort in this program has been applied to theory and experiments using magnetic fields to confine the plasma fuel so that fusion reactions can take place. These research efforts have played a critical role in the intellectual development of plasma science and technology, but the prime motivation of the Department's fusion energy program has always been the development of a new energy option.

The Department's Office of Inertial Fusion and National Ignition Facility Project manages a research program to address high-energy-density physics issues for the science based stockpile stewardship program and to develop a laboratory microfusion capability. A major near term goal of the program is to demonstrate ignition in the laboratory, and the National Ignition Facility (NIF) is a cornerstone of this effort. Although the primary mission of the inertial fusion program is for defense applications, inertial fusion research will provide important information for the development of inertial fusion energy. This arrangement is consistent with the recommendations of the 1990 Fusion Policy Advisory Committee Report.

In their FY 1999 report language, both the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees noted that, in addition to magnetic fusion technology, the Department also pursues related fusion energy technologies, primarily for national security purposes. Examples of such technologies are pulsed-power, lasers, and ion drivers, all variants of what is known as inertial fusion. These technologies may have bearing on the long term prospects for fusion ignition and/or energy. The Department's Office of Defense Programs has long pursued these technologies as a part of the weapons research program, and more recently as a part of stockpile stewardship, and only secondarily because of any benefits to energy development.

Description of the Work

The Task Force should review the Department's present plans for research and development of the four fusion related technologies cited by the appropriations subcommittees--pulsed-power, lasers, ion drivers, and magnetic fusion. The review should focus on the scientific quality of the programs, the goals and objectives of the programs, and the energy potential of each technology. The final written report should provide advice on how to structure the Department's fusion energy programs. The findings and recommendations of this Task Force should include comments on the goals and objectives of the Department's fusion energy related programs, a critique of the current development strategies, suggested changes in the overall roadmap (including major decision points), and recommended funding levels. The Task Force should address at least the following questions:

  1. What is the overall state of development and energy potential of the four fusion-related technologies?

  2. How should the magnetic and inertial fusion energy programs in the Office of Science be structured to make maximum scientific progress in the development of fusion energy?

  3. Recognizing that the inertial confinement fusion program in the Office of Defense Programs is driven by stockpile stewardship requirements, what is the appropriate balance between magnetic and inertial confinement fusion energy activities in the Office of Science?

  4. What is an appropriate development path for each of the four fusion-related technologies?

  5. What is the appropriate funding level for each fusion energy technology?


The Task Force shall report to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.

Estimated Number and Frequency of Meetings

The Task Force is expected to meet approximately four times during its term. Meetings will be scheduled as the Task Force chair deems necessary for the Task Force to accomplish its duties and purpose.


Subcommittee members shall reflect a balance of expertise and informed viewpoints. Approximately twelve members shall be selected from the fields of plasma science, energy, and the environment; the general scientific community; public interest organizations; and the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.


The Chairman of the SEAB shall designate a chair for the Task Force in consultation with the Secretary of Energy.

Working Groups

Working groups may be established, as appropriate, to facilitate the functioning of the Committee. The objectives of the working groups are to make recommendations to the Task Force with respect to the activities described in the Description of Work section above.

Duration and Termination Date

This charter shall expire in five months from the date of the Task Force's establishment, subject to extension or dissolution by the Chairman of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.