Nuclear Science: DOE's Acceptance of Academy of Sciences' 1986 Inertial Fusion Technical Priorities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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                                                  NUCLEAR SCIENCE
                                                  DOE’s Acceptance of
                                                  Academy of Sciences’
                                                  1986 Inertial Fusion
                                                  Technical Priorities
      United States
      General Accounting OlYlce
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Resources, Community,   and
      Economic Development    Division



      The Honorable Jon Kyl
      House of Representatives
      Dear Mr. Kyl:
      On August 10, 1989, you requested that we review certain
      aspects of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Inertial
      Confinement Fusion (ICF) program.        ICF research involves
      using lasers or particle      beam accelerators   (called
      @'driversI') to bombard tiny fusion fuel capsules f called
      "targets@') to cause a momentary fusion reaction.           Six
      participants     are involved in the ICF research program:        the
      Lawrence Livermore,      Los Alamos, and Sandia National
      Laboratories;     the Naval Research Laboratory;    the University
      of Rochester;     and KMS Fusion, Inc. (KMS), a private
      contractor    that provides target components and other
      research support services.       The National Academy of Sciences
      reviewed the ICF program in 1986 and currently          has another
      As agreed with          your office,   we addressed   the following
      -- What program priorities did the Academy's               1986 review
         panel recommend for DOE's ICF program?
      -- Which program priorities recommended by the Academy in
         its 1986 review of DOE's ICF program were accepted by
      -- Which tasks in DOE's contract  with KMS were designed by
         DOE to satisfy the program priorities recommended by the
         Academy and accepted by DOE?

      'DOE plans to use the results   of this research to support
      nuclear weapons studies because of the similarities      between
      ICF laboratory-scale  reactions  and nuclear explosions.
      2,The Academy issued an interim report in January               1990 based
      on its current review of the ICF program.


In summary we found that:
-- The Academy's 1986 report,           Review of the Department of
    Bnerqv's Inertial       Confinement Fusion Procrram, lists        the
    following    priority     areas for the ICF program to pursue in
    the subsequent 5 years:           (1) the Centurion-Halite
    Program (a classified         underground test program to help
    design ICF fusion targets conducted jointly              by the Los
    Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories);               (2)
    exploitation      of the capabilities      of the rrnew@'major ICF
    facilities,     including     Livermore LaboratoryIs      glass laser
     (Nova) and Sandia Laboratory's          Particle   Beam Fusion
    Accelerator:     and (3) maintaining       smaller-scale     ICF
    research activities,        such as those at the University         of
    Rochester and the Naval Research Laboratory.                The Academy
   'panel also recommended that funding for the ICF program
    remain at the fiscal        year 1985 level for the subsequent 5
    years so that the laboratories           could follow the
    priorities    recommended by the panell.
-- According to the Director         of the Inertial     Fusion
   Division,    DOE has generally       directed   its program toward
   the technical     priorities     recommended by the Academy's
   1986 panel, and the ICF laboratories            have generally
   responded in their individual           programs.3    That is, the
   Centurion-Halite      program objectives       have been pursued by
   Livermore and Los Alamos; ICF capabilities             at the major
   laboratories     have been pursued: and the role of the
   smaller programs at the University            of Rochester and the
   Naval Research Laboratory has been strengthened.               Total
   program funding, however, has not kept pace with
   inflation.      Thus, there has been more than an $80 million
   cumulative    deficit     compared with the 1985 funding level
    (in real terms) recommended by the Academy.4 In its
   January 1990 report on the program, the Academy said that
   because funding has fallen significantly             short of the
   recommended level,        some laboratories     could not accomplish
   program objectives.

3According to the Director   of DOE's Inertial             Fusion
Division,  the Congress did not explicitly            require DOE to
implement the Academy's recommendations.              Thus, DOE
implemented these recommendations l'only to             the extent that
they made sense programmatically   in DOE's           judgment."
4The cumulative deficit      includes    the period     of fiscal   years
1986 through 1989.

--   The 1986 Academy panel recognized that target fabrication
     was essential      to the experimental     programs of the ICF
     laboratories.        Thus, when DOE wrote the 3-year ICF
     support contract       (that KMS now has),5 DOE made contractor
     fabrication    and delivery     of target components for use in
     the experimental       programs of the ICF laboratories         the
     highest priority       in the contract.     In that sense, the
     most urgent task assigned to KMS directly            supports the
     Academy's recommendation for target-physics            experiments.
     The next priority        for KMS is general target     fabrication,
     and the lowest contract        priority  is KMS' in-houge
     experimental     laser and target-physics       programs.
The Academy's 1990 study panel also observed that DOE and
some of the laboratories,            especially    Livermore,     have given
advanced laser development a somewhat higher priority                     than
what was recommended by the 1986 panel.                  The Academy's panel
believes that this occurred because DOE is in the planning
process for a Laboratory Microfusion               Facility    which includes
the eventual selection            of a driver    (an advanced laser or
particle     beam accelerator)         to do ICF tests.       Livermore's     ICF
program director          told us that it is important         to maintain an
"institutionally        II balanced program of target-physics
experiments,        advanced laser development, and Microfusion
Laboratory       studies.      Otherwise,    if objectives     are pursued
sequentially,         by the time enough has been learned from
experiments,        the program still       will not have a laser
advanced enough to apply this knowledge in a Microfusion
Laboratory.         However, the Academy's 1990 panel concluded
that the present ICF program is somewhat distracted                    from
orderly     scientific       progress by (1) a desire to push ahead to
the Microfusion         Laboratory     and (2) too much concern for
issues of institutional            balance.     The 1990 panel recommends
a strong program emphasis on fusion target-physics
experiments.          That is, the panel believes that more basic
science needs to be done before a proper advanced driver can
be developed for the Microfusion               Laboratory.

5DOE plans to recompete this           cost-plus-fixed-fee        contract
when it expires in 1990.
61n 1986, the panel recommended against upgrading KMS' laser
facility and more recently     in its January 1990 report
recommended terminating    all KMS ICF laser work.


To answer your questions,          we gathered and analyzed data at
DOE headquarters       and DOE field offices        in San Francisco and
Albuquerque,       and at the six ICF program participants.            We
also asked DOE's Director          of Inertial     Fusion to respond
formally     to your questions,       and verified    his responses
through discussions        with the Academy and the ICF
participants.        In addition,     we used the results     of our draft
report fluclear Science:          Performance of Particiuants       in
DOE%     Inertial    Confinement Fusion Proqram, which will soon
be completed and issued.           We conducted our review between
September 1989 and February 1990. The Director                of DOE's
Inertial      Fusion Division     reviewed this fact sheet and
generally      agrees with its contents.
We plan to send copies of this fact sheet to the Secretary
of Energy; the Director,   Office of Management and Budget;
the National Academy of Sciences; and other interested
parties,  including the six participants.
If you have any questions,        please   contact me at (202) 275-
1441. Major contributors        to this    fact sheet are listed in
appendix I.
Sincerely   yours,

Victor S.lkezendes
Director,  Energy Issues
'APPENDIX I                                             APPENDIX I

/Robert E. Allen, Jr., Assistant     Director
  ack H. Paul, Evaluator-in-Charge
  ark M. Mickelsen,   Evaluator
     Duane G. Fitzgerald,    Nuclear Engineer

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