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The European Pathway to Laser Energy. Dr. Chris Edwards HiPER Fusion Project Director Outline. STFC: The home of HiPER. HiPER: Europe’s “other” fusion energy project. Europe: Capability, Complexity & Constraints. Aspirations and Relationships.

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the european pathway to laser energy
The European Pathway to Laser Energy

Dr. Chris Edwards

HiPER Fusion Project Director

  • STFC: The home of HiPER
  • HiPER: Europe’s “other” fusion energy project
  • Europe: Capability, Complexity & Constraints
  • Aspirations and Relationships
  • Funding prospects and the importance of ignition at NIF
  • Discussion
stfc home of hiper
STFC: Home of HiPER
  • STFC: Science & Technology Facilities Council
  • Funded via Research Councils UK by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • Science Minister David Willetts
  • STFC operates large scale facilities (VULCAN laser, telescopes, ISIS spallation neutron source, Diamond synchrotron, HPC infrastructures) for university researchers and manages UK contributions to CERN, etc., . . . . .
  • . . . . but neither ITER nor JET (via EURATOM from E.C. and EPSRC)
  • STFC (Mike Dunne) invented HiPER. STFC funded partners’ technical work for 3 years; E.C. funded coordination & governance for (3 + 2) years (to April 2013)
hiper europe s other fusion energy project
HiPER: Europe’s “other” fusion energy project
  • Before LIFE there was HiPER
  • HiPER is an “ESFRI” project (European Strategy Forum on Res. Infrastructures)
  • HiPER brings together 9 funding agencies and 17 other partners across Europe
26 european partners
26 European Partners
  • Funding Agency involvement by 9 partners
    • STFC (UK)
    • CEA, CNRS and CRA (France)
    • MSMT (Czech Republic)
    • GSRT (Greece)
    • MEC and CAM (through UPM) (Spain)
    • ENEA and CNR (Italy)
  • Institutional involvement by 17 other partners
    • IST Lisbon (Portugal)
    • CNSIM (Italy)
    • TEI, TUC (Greece)
    • IOP-PALS (Czech Republic)
    • IPPLM (Poland)
    • FVB, FSU Jena, GSI, TUD (Germany)
    • Lebedev Physical Institute, (Russia)

Institute of Applied Physics-RAS

    • Imperial College London, (UK)

Universities of York, Oxford,

Strathclyde, Queens Belfast

hiper europe s other fusion energy project1
HiPER: Europe’s “other” fusion energy project
  • Before LIFE there was HiPER
  • HiPER is an “ESFRI” project (European Strategy Forum on Res. Infrastructures)
  • HiPER brings together 9 funding agencies and 17 other partners across Europe
  • HiPER was conceived in ~ 2006/7 as the next step to laser driven commercial fusion energy following “First Ignition” demonstration at NIF
  • The project was re-scoped in 2009; 10Hz laser driver; full blanket to capture fusion neutrons; electricity generation. (Many implications!)
  • HiPER has developed a delivery strategy that satisfies current constraints: financial, technical & political
delivery strategy
Delivery Strategy

NIF Ignition

LMJ Ignition

LMJ available

Invest. decision



  • Single major facility construction step to deliver laser energy


Robust ignition; physics optimisation

Technology Devt. & Risk Redn.

Laser: 10kJ / 10Hz beamline prototype; Target mass prod.; Chamber concept



HiPER construction & commissioning

europe s other fusion energy project
Europe’s “other” fusion energy project
  • Before LIFE there was HiPER
  • HiPER is an “ESFRI” project (European Strategy Forum on Res. Infrastructures)
  • HiPER was conceived in ~ 2006/7 as the next step to laser driven commercial fusion energy following “First Ignition” demonstration at NIF
  • HiPER brings together 9 funding agencies and 17 other partners across Europe
  • HiPER has a developed a delivery strategy that satisfies current constraints: financial, technical & political
  • This schedule is not ideal, but it is credible, keeps partners engaged and preserves options in the “pre NIF ignition” era
europe capability complexity constraints
Europe: Capability, Complexity & Constraints
  • Capability (simplified)
  • U.K.
  • Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) maintains UK deterrent:
  • Orion laser facility, HPC, tritium, in-house HED science programme, physics codes. Working to add “fusion energy” to its mission
  • STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory:
  • VULCAN laser facility, HPC, centre for DPSSL laser development, HED science programme in partnership with UK university groups
  • Nuclear power industry (declined); AMEC, RR, BAE Systems, NNL, etc.
  • France
  • CEA: “NIF-like” LMJ (on-line 2015 – 16) and associated capabilities
  • Host organisation for ITER
  • Carbon neutral energy mission; GEN-IV development, solar, etc.
  • Extensive nuclear power industry; EDF, Areva, etc
europe capability complexity constraints1
Europe: Capability, Complexity & Constraints
  • Capability (simplified)
  • Czech Republic: ELI Beamlines
  • One of three large laser projects which comprise the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), funded largely from E.U. “Structural Funds”
  • Other projects of similar scale are starting in Hungary and Romania
  • These facilities require a new laser technology; high efficiency, high repetition rate (>10Hz) and high power . . .
  • . . . also the requirement for the laser driver for inertial fusion energy
  • Contracts between IoP Prague and U.K. (CLF) and U.S. (LLNL) are driving the development of this DPSSL technology
europe capability complexity constraints2
Europe: Capability, Complexity & Constraints
  • Complexity & Constraints
  • MFE programme, JET and ITER (under construction)
  • LIFE and HiPER programmes will validate all the physics, engineering, technology and commercial viability of fusion power via single, major facility build using existing materials
  • ITER will not have a full blanket or tritium cycle; larger machines required for commercial power production will introduce physics unknowns, plasma stability, materials issues
  • Extreme sensitivity over IFE / MFE delivery schedule
  • Physics design for IFE based on X-ray (indirect) drive (NIF) requires access to computer codes that are not in the public domain
  • HiPER Executive Board determined an ignition physics strategy based on direct drive (shock ignition) to be demonstrated at LMJ ~ 2022
  • UK works on both schemes; indirect drive is outside of HiPER scope
  • Demonstration of ignition at NIF is likely to change this landscape


“The struggle for existence is the struggle

for available energy.”

  • Affordable
  • Security of supply
  • Environmentally responsible

Ludwig Boltzmann (attrib), 1886

aspirations relationships
Aspirations & Relationships
  • U.K.
  • UK has the opportunity to be on the supply side of IFE through laser technology, fuel capsule design and manufacture, etc.
  • AWE is actively seeking an energy remit, supported (not funded) by MoD; AWE’s Board has agreed to co-fund start-up programme
  • STFC, AWE and Livermore have signed an MoU to collaborate on IFE; announced by BIS Minister David Willetts and Ed Moses at an IFE event at Royal Society in London
  • STFC has a long history of collaboration on ICF with Japan. MoU and staff exchanges, etc.
  • An inter-Govt. agreement on IFE is possible following ignition
aspirations relationships1
Aspirations & Relationships
  • France
  • Keeping options open; CEA maintaining influence
  • France (CEA) partnered with US on production of NIF & LMJ laser glass and other components
  • France and UK are collaborating on defence procurement; CEA and AWE are developing joint facilities
  • Local Government in Bordeaux region is contributing additional capability to LMJ which can be used for HiPER relevant research
  • LMJ beam time will be available for academic access and HiPER, from 2016
president sarkozy visits lmj 14 th october 2010
President Sarkozy visits LMJ 14th October 2010
  • “LMJ to be used for energy research”
  • “By choosing to build the PETAL laser next to the Laser MegaJoule, we open the way to explore a new type of energy”
funding prospects
Funding Prospects
  • HiPER “Preparatory Phase” was funded by EC (coordination & governance); STFC and MSMT funded technical work
  • STFC is funding continued coordination and governance until April 2014 . . . .
  • . . . beyond April ‘14, STFC will fund 50%; seeking 50% from partners in return for representation on the HiPER Steering Board
  • Technical work is funded on a national basis
  • Laser technology in UK, France & Czech Republic
  • Physics modeling in UK, France & Italy
  • Systems engineering in France & Spain
  • Materials and chamber design in Spain
  • Funding from E.C. is likely beyond 2014 within “Horizon 2020” programme
  • Ignition at NIF is likely to unlock substantial funding, at least in UK and France
fuel sustainability
Fuel sustainability











D: 115 ppm in seawater; chemical extraction


  • TBR >1.1

Li: abundant in earth’s crust

n slow







4.8 MeV


n fast










2.466 MeV

  • Castle Bravo (1954) yielded 15MT compared to a predicted 5MT
  • Also neutron breeding from 207Pb (or 9Be) (n,2n) reactions
economic analyses
Economic Analyses

Role of laser energy as part of the energy mix

Value of “security of supply” & “first to market” advantage

Cost of electricity (€/kWh) & dependencies

Rate and cost of build

Investment & funding scenarios (NPV, DCF, debt, …)

Impact of carbon (obligations, taxing, …)

Economic Impact on the collaborating nations

Industrial sector impact and alignment

Exploitation of spin-off technology development

  • Laser energy must be commercially and technologically viable
  • Many aspects to be assessed
  • Studies in progress; no “show stoppers” identified so far
  • High gain ignition scheme and > 10 Hz repetition rate
2 gw coal station at didcot closed in march 13
2 GW coal station at Didcot closed in March ‘13
  • UK is facing high probability of power cuts in 2015
renewable energy in uk requires space
Renewable energy in UK requires space!



(or coal!)

For 1GWe

Wind (onshore)

Wind (offshore)


Solar (PV)


Solar bio-mass

(Hydro is twice this size;

Geo-thermal is 30 times this size)

DJC McKay (2009)


uk energy realities
UK Energy Realities
  • There are options for the future, but they come with difficult choices
  • In the short term, UK is committed to replace coal with gas (from Norway & Eastern Europe; lpg from Qatar)
  • . . . . followed by a fission reactor build programme in the medium term . . . .
  • . . . . or a huge scale-up of renewables supported by feed-in subsidies
  • Fusion could solve our energy needs beyond 2050
  • Requires ignition at NIF, long term political vision and investor support
  • Progress to date is encouraging!
laser energy swot analysis
Laser Energy “SWOT” analysis


1. Deliverable on "energy relevant" timescale

2. Separability enables parallel development

3. Physics can be demonstrated at full scale at NIF & LMJ

4. < 1kg Tritium inventory

5. Sustainable

6. Inherently (comparatively?) safe

  • Weaknesses
  • 1. Laser driver scalability not yet demonstrated
  • Mass production of fuel capsules to quality and cost
  • Novel material may be required for first wall (HiPER)
  • Commercial viability not yet demonstrated
  • "Fusion is always 50 years away!"
  • Opportunities
  • Technology has high, immediate exploitation potential
  • First wall has no containment function
  • 2. Use of existing, qualified materials simplifies licensing
  • 3. High reaction temperature enables chemical processes
  • Threats
  • 1. First Ignition" is not assured
  • Laser diode cost reduction not yet demonstrated
  • 3. Political focus on renewables
  • 4. Difficult economic environment for R & D funding