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Contributions to the Genesis and Progress of ICF

Description: Inertial confinement fusion (ICF) has progressed from the detonation of large-scale fusion explosions initiated by atomic bombs in the early 1950s to final preparations for initiating small-scale fusion explosions with giant lasers. The next major step after ignition will be development of high performance targets that can be initiated with much smaller, lower cost lasers. In the 21st century and beyond, ICF's grand challenge is to develop practical power plants that generate low cost, clean, inexhaustible fusion energy. In this chapter, I first describe the origin in 1960-61 of ICF target concepts, early speculations on laser driven 'Thermonuclear Engines' for power production and rocket propulsion, and encouraging large-scale nuclear explosive experiments conducted in 1962. Next, I recall the 40-year, multi-billion dollar ignition campaign - to develop a matched combination of sufficiently high-performance implosion lasers and sufficiently stable targets capable of igniting small fusion explosions. I conclude with brief comments on the NIF ignition campaign and very high-performance targets, and speculations on ICF's potential in a centuries-long Darwinian competition of future energy systems. My perspectives in this chapter are those of a nuclear explosive designer, optimistic proponent of ICF energy, and Livermore Laboratory leader. The perspectives of Livermore's post 1970 laser experts and builders, and laser fusion experimentalists are provided in a chapter written by John Holzrichter, a leading scientist and leader in Livermore's second generation laser fusion program. In a third chapter, Ray Kidder, a theoretical physicist and early laser fusion pioneer, provides his perspectives including the history of the first generation laser fusion program he led from 1962-1972.
Date: February 15, 2006
Creator: Nuckolls, J. H.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department