LIFE – Fusion energy soon enough to make a difference
These are exciting times for fusion energy. After 50 years of development and many billions of dollars of investment, we are now on the threshold of achieving the goal of delivering a net source of energy from fusion. Not 50 years away; not 20 years; but perhaps just 1 year into our future.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world’s largest and most energetic laser system, is now operational at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Similar in scale to a major sports stadium, this $3.5 billion facility has been designed to demonstrate fusion energy gain for the first time in the laboratory. This event, expected before the end of 2012, will mark the culmination of over 50 years effort across the world.
In this talk we will discuss an approach to generating gigawatt levels of electrical power based on these demonstration experiments. This approach is known as Laser Inertial Fusion Energy – or LIFE.
Fusion is often called the “holy grail” of energy sources. It will be inherently safe, generate no greenhouse gases or other environmental pollutants, provide security of fuel supply to all nations, use fuel that will last for millennia, deliver large-scale baseload electricity generation, make use of the existing grid, have no need for geological waste disposal (unlike nuclear power or carbon sequestration), and will not require enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear material that could present a proliferation risk. The only problem is – it has never been proven to work!
This is why the current tests on the National Ignition Facility are so important. Success over the next year or so would mark a transformation – from speculative science to practical reality.
This talk will present an overview of the energy challenges our world faces; provide a graphical tour of the National Ignition Facility; and show how LIFE could transform our energy future.
This work performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344.
Professor Mike Dunne joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2010 as program director for Laser Fusion Energy. This role includes leadership of the LIFE (Laser Inertial Fusion Energy) project, which is designed to build from National Ignition Facility ignition to deliver electrical power for the United States at the Gigawatt scale per plant. He was previously the leader of the European laser fusion program, HiPER—a consortium of 26 institutions across 10 countries. Professor Dunne has also held the post of Director of the UK’s Central Laser Facility. He spent 10 years at AWE Aldermaston, holding group leader and strategic senior management roles, and as a visiting professor at Imperial College London, where he obtained his Ph.D. in Plasma Physics. Professor Dunne is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, and a member of the American Physical Society and the European Physical Society. He has received a number of awards and is the author of over 60 technical papers, over 30 invited talks, and numerous press and media reports.