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European High Power Laser Energy Research Facility (Preparatory Phase Study)

Final Report Summary - HIPER (European High Power Laser Energy Research Facility (Preparatory Phase Study))

Executive Summary:
HiPER is an ambitious, European “ESFRI” Roadmap project seeking to develop commercial power production based on laser-driven fusion of deuterium and tritium.
The Preparatory Phase Project commenced in April 2008 and concluded in April 2013. It was co-ordinated in the UK by the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. The project management, co-ordination and governance of the project was financed by the European Commission under Grant Agreement 211737. Research and technical development was funded jointly by STFC and by MSMT, the Ministry for Education Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. Other partners made extremely valuable “contributions in kind”, including laser beam time at national facility assets in France, Czech Republic and UK and computational resources in Italy, Spain and Greece.
Key outputs from the project include over 100 peer reviewed publications in the scientific literature covering all aspects of the technology of laser-driven fusion; many high profile invited lectures at international conferences in Europe, North America, Canada, Japan and Russia; events including exhibitions and visits to companies to encourage industrial participation in future phases of the project and a campaign to raise public awareness of the growing energy challenge and the potential contribution of laser-driven fusion with public lectures and visits to schools and universities.
Much of this Final Report is devoted to the work conducted during the final two years of the Preparatory Phase, particularly the identification and costing of a phased delivery strategy for the construction of the HiPER facility itself and the identification of opportunities for exploitation of the technology in the short and medium term. Further information concerning the project and its outputs to date are available from the HiPER website, http://www.hiper-laser.org.
Proof of principle of the laser-driven fusion scheme at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in US is an important pre-cursor to substantial public or private funding for HiPER. Recent results are extremely encouraging and there is a growing consensus that ignition will be achieved within the next few years.
European prospects for taking laser-driven fusion energy forward to the construction phase of HiPER were given an important boost in 2010 when President Sarcozy of France announced that beam time at the Laser Mégajoule (LMJ) and the co-located PETAL facility would be made available to develop “new forms of energy”. This important policy decision by the French Government gives researchers throughout Europe the opportunity to conduct key “proof of principle” laser-driven fusion experiments at full scale. This enables HiPER to devise a strategy whereby construction of a single, large scale plant can bridge the facility gap between existing “single shot” machines such as LMJ and NIF and a demonstration power plant. Considering the time required to fund, design, construct and commission such large scale facilities, this strategy is essential if laser-driven fusion is to make a contribution to power production on a timescale relevant to national and world energy needs. The HiPER community must now develop a robust case for beam time for submission to the LMJ Access Panel in 2015, supported by detailed numerical simulations and experiments conducted at existing, “intermediate scale” facilities.
In addition to development of the science and related technologies, HiPER must ensure that its stakeholders are well positioned to exploit opportunities arising in the immediate “post-ignition” era. This includes broadening its stakeholder community within industry, Governments, funding agencies and potential partners as well as identifying the key commercial drivers.

Project Context and Objectives:
Achievement of “first ignition” of a Deuterium - Tritium plasma at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), laser facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), California or at LMJ in France is expected to transform the prospect of inertial fusion energy (IFE) from a distant aspiration to a credible proposition on a 30 year timescale. The ESFRI HiPER Project has been developed as Europe’s response to the opportunity of developing the potential of Laser Energy to the stage of an operational demonstrator plant on a timescale consistent with meeting the global demands for environmentally responsible energy.
During the Preparatory Phase Project of HiPER, April 2008 to April 2013, project partners have been working on a plan to produce energy from laser driven fusion based on a “shock ignition” scheme that offers high net energy gain. An essential advantage of shock ignition is that it is amenable to demonstration, albeit on a single shot basis, using the Laser MégaJoule (LMJ) facility due to be commissioned at CESTA, Bordeaux at the end of 2014. Following success at LMJ, a global programme of technology development will deliver the advances necessary to present a project to construct a “first of type” demonstration facility based on a technological risk mitigation proposition.
This Preparatory Phase Final Report (attached) identifies the route to fielding a successful shock ignition campaign on LMJ, the technology development which will underpin the repetitive operation of a Laser Energy power plant and the concept engineering needed to construct a fusion chamber and energy absorbing blanket able to harness the fusion reaction for power production.
A three phase strategy to HiPER construction has been devised to minimise the cost of the project in advance of ignition at LMJ while the scientific risks are relatively high. Financial risk during this phase is reduced by the exploitation potential of intellectual property which arises from the technology development programme.
The work to build high level political support for the project has already met with some success at a national level in UK, Greece and Spain. Achievement of first ignition at NIF and LMJ should provide the necessary justification for governments in Europe, US and beyond, to transform this support into funding for delivery of Laser Energy.
The HiPER Laser Energy Strategy provides a high value science and technology program which maintains Europe’s status in the field and enables options for wider collaboration strategies in the future whilst protecting the option for Europe to proceed independently should this be required.
The investment will be economically beneficial to European industry in the short and medium terms in the field of Laser Technology and will enhance the potential for longer term economic returns as a supplier of Laser Energy technologies to world markets.

Project Results:
Technical work was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in UK, by the Ministry of Research of the Czech Republic and by "in kind" contributions from project partners. The results of this technical work are described in the >100 peer reviewed publications and conference proceedings and the HiPER Preparatory Phase Final Report.
The EC contribution excluded technical work and comprised project management, project co-ordination, project governance, outreach and public engagement activities.

Potential Impact:
With increasing dependence upon fossil fuel based energy resources becoming less viable, the world is seeking new strategies and new technologies to meet the energy challenge. This is made more pressing by ageing power generation and distribution infrastructure in developed nations, rising demand from developing nations, anticipated electrification of transport and security concerns over the wider exploitation of nuclear fission. It opens a perspective for fusion energy to be part of the energy mix required for future generations. The magnetic fusion program is already on a programmatic route while laser energy fusion has not been strongly investigated because of lack of proof of principle in reaching fusion via laser energy. Ignition at NIF and / or LMJ over the next few years will mark a fundamental change in this position.
A transformation in the energy market is required to meet the need for low carbon, sustainable, affordable, base load energy, matched with security of supply.
In the short term, an increasing contribution from renewable energy sources may provide a solution in some locations. In the medium term, low carbon, sustainable solutions must be developed which are environmentally acceptable and match base load energy demand to avoid the threat of an energy gap and the political instabilities this would bring.
Laser Energy is one potential candidate for meeting this challenge, with research work approaching Proof of Principle within the next few years at the world’s most powerful High Energy Facilities, NIF and LMJ.
Though the concept of fusion investigated in priority on these facilities (called indirect drive) is different from the one aimed for laser energy fusion (called direct drive - shock ignition) - “First Ignition” of Laser Fusion at the National Ignition Facility in California will open the way for a programme of physics and technology development before construction of a prototype plant to demonstrate power production through Laser Energy.
The ESFRI “HiPER” project has defined a path to a prototype European Laser Energy facility to demonstrate the entire process and to prove the feasibility of repeated fusion of DT pellets, the neutron heat conversion scheme and the sustainability of the process on long run. In a second step the facility can be converted to prove that economic viability can be achieved in a commercial environment.
The HiPER Project can be regarded as an “opportunity program”. Based on dual use facilities (high energy lasers, material testing facilities under high neutron flux, etc.), this program requires only a small level of investment from the European partners until the proof of concept is obtained. This makes a fundamental difference compared to other fusion programs and allows us to propose a parallel pathway to magnetic fusion at almost no investment cost during the preliminary phases of the project. Moreover, many technical and scientific advances driven by HiPER will serve other programs of general interest (ELI high intensity lasers, laboratory astrophysics, medical application of lasers, etc.).
During the Preparatory Phase Project (HiPER PPP), careful attention has been paid to developing the expertise of the HiPER partners in the various areas of technological development required either to contribute to a wider international program on Laser Energy or, if required, to enable Europe to proceed on a “go it alone” basis. This expertise includes the physics of ignition under direct drive conditions, the development of new generation laser technology (high energy efficiency, high repetition rate, high energy), high gain direct drive target design and mass production of cryogenic targets, high speed injection, tracking and firing of targets in the chamber, advanced material development and testing under extreme conditions of fusion reactors, fusion chamber design and integration of the complete system from ignition physics through to a functioning demonstrator facility including tritium handling and cycling. Many shorter term technology exploitation opportunities of these technologies also exist in high-tech manufacturing, new medical treatments, advanced imaging techniques and fundamental science.
In an international context, the HiPER partnership positions Europe advantageously as laser driven fusion ignition approaches, with attractive options following that key event, to embrace strategically valuable partnerships with the US and Japan.
Activities proposed for the HiPER consortium in the post – “first ignition” era have been chosen to be complementary to work which is being undertaken in US and elsewhere. This protects a range of options for Europe after Proof of Principle has been achieved as competition intensifies for commercial exploitation of the new possibilities. At that stage, a range of possible collaborations can be assessed.
Enhanced collaboration has already been achieved with US, through Memoranda of Understanding between Spain and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and between STFC, AWE and LLNL to facilitate joint working and free exchange of information.
These MoU’s have the potential to develop into inter-governmental agreements to pursue Laser Energy on an international basis. It is important that the HiPER partners can make sure that Intellectual Property is adequately protected in spite of bilateral agreements as stated above.

List of Websites:
http://www.hiper-laser.org

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