Category Archives: Fusion Scientists and Leaders

Yitzhak Maron

Yitzhak Maron

The Stephen and Mary Meadow Professorial Chair of Laser Photochemistry

Location:Edna and K.B. Weissman Building of Physical Sciences Room: 242

Current Research Interests

Plasma physics, atomic physics, plasma spectroscopy, non-equilibrium plasmas, high-energy-density physics, plasmas under pulsed magnetic fields, generation of ion and electron beams, plasma implosions and stagnations, laser-matter interaction, warm dense matter, implications to fusion and space physics.

Diagnostic methods based on fast, high-resolution plasma spectroscopy of spontaneous emission in the visible, U.V., vacuum UV, and x-ray regions, as well as on spectroscopy of laser absorption and laser stimulated emission.

In the Plasma Laboratory we study processes in plasmas subjected to high-energy deposition. We examine the interaction of nonequilibrium plasmas with strong electric and magnetic fields, the propagation of ionization fronts, the production of shock waves, conversion of energy in pulsed-power systems, generation of fast particle beams, generation of magnetic shocks, development of collective fluctuating fields, and plasma-surface interactions.

The diagnostic methods are based on fast, high-resolution plasma spectroscopy of spontaneous emission and absorption in the visible, U.V., vacuum UV, and x-ray regions, as well as on spectroscopy of laser absorption and laser-stimulated emission. Theoretical analysis of the experimental data is based on detailed modeling of atomic-physics processes that govern the atomic/ionic spectral-line broadening, atomic-level splitting under electric and magnetic fields, field ionization, multiple ionizations and time-dependent collisional-radiative calculations and radiation-transport modeling.

Magnetohydrodynamic simulations are used to account for the nonequilibrium kinetic and transport processes in the plasmas.The research in the laboratory is relevant to the understanding of high-energy-density plasmas in various systems and of astrophysical data.

Awards and Honors

2009 APS John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research
Citation: “For revolutionary, non-invasive spectroscopic techniques to measure magnetic fields in dense plasmas and for resolving in detail in space and time the implosion phase of the Z pinch.” APS announcement

2007 IEEE Plasma Science and Applications Award
Citation: “For pioneering the application of spectroscopic techniques to the detailed space and time characterization of electric and magnetic fields, charged-particle beams, and plasmas under extreme conditions of high-current, high-voltage, high-fields, and short-duration.” IEEE announcement

IEEE Fellow (2005)
Citation: “For contributions to spectroscopic techniques for diagnosing high-current, high-voltage electric and magnetic properties.”

APS Fellow (1996)
Citation: “For pioneering the employment of novel spectroscopic methods to diagnose the field and plasma properties in pulsed-power systems, including the development of the atomic-physics modeling required for the data analysis.”

Dr. Scott C. Hsu, Los Alamos, NM

Dr. Scott Hsu

Dr. Scott C. Hsu is a plasma and fusion research scientist in the Plasma Physics Group of the Physics Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, NM. He earned a Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences (Program in Plasma Physics) in 2000 from Princeton University, where he made experimental measurements of ion heating due to magnetic reconnection, which is an ubiquitous process in both laboratory fusion and astrophysical plasmas. For this work, he was a co-recipient of the 2002 American Physical Society (APS) Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research.

After graduate school, Scott was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fusion Energy Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue research at the California Institute of Technology on an alternative magnetic fusion concept called the spheromak. There, he also became a pioneer in connecting the physics of astrophysical jets to those studied in laboratory plasma experiments.

In 2002, he went to LANL as a Frederick Reines Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow to work on magnetized target fusion (aka magneto-inertial fusion or MIF), which is a higher-density and pulsed alternative fusion approach, and also basic laboratory plasma physics and plasma astrophysics. At LANL, Scott also branched out into research in high-energy-density (HED) physics and inertial confinement fusion (ICF).

Presently, Scott is lead principal investigator for a multi-institutional plasma-jet-driven MIF research project, with primary partner HyperV Technologies Corp., sponsored by the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) under its ALPHA (Accelerating Low-Cost Plasma Heating and Assembly) program. He also conducts experiments and HED research on the OMEGA laser facility at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester.

Scott is the author or co-author of more than 60 refereed research publications in plasma and fusion science. In 2009, he participated in the DOE Basic Research Needs Workshops for both Magnetic Fusion Energy Science and High Energy Density Laboratory Physics, and in 2016, he was invited to testify on the status of DOE support of innovative fusion energy concept development to the Energy Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Scott was formerly an executive committee member of the APS Topical Group in Plasma Astrophysics, and is presently a member of the Exploratory Plasma Research (EPR) executive committee.

Selected presentations and Congressional testimony of Dr. Scott Hsu

Scott Hsu’s Peer-Reviewed Publications (reverse chronological order)

Dr. Shalom Eliezer, Rehovot, Israel

Tom Tamarkin, President of USCL and Dr. Shalom and Yaffa Eliezer discuss nuclear fusion energy

Dr. Eliezer is a well-known professor and lecturer on fusion science in Europe and Israel. His wife Yaffa is the author of two fiction books published both in English and Hebrew. Dr. Shalom Eliezer is the author of many text books used in graduate level university classes in nuclear physics and plasma sciences, including “Fundamentals of Equations of State“, “High-Pressure Equations of State: Theory and Applications”, “The Interaction of High-Power Lasers with Plasmas” and “Applications of Laser-Plasma Interactions“, as well as his popular book, “The Fourth State of Matter; An Introduction to Plasma Science”.

The videos indexed by icons below were produced with Dr. Shalom and Yaffa, Eliezer at their home in Rehovot, Israel. Part 2 provides a discussion of Dr. Eliezer’s concept of “Energy”, “the Good,” “the Bad,” and “the Ugly.” The project of the Dr. Schroeder book on energy and fusion is discussed. The proposed interactive game series will be based on facts presented in this book based on work done at the Ariel University.

Fundamentals of Equations of StateHigh-Pressure Equations of State: Theory and ApplicationsThe Interaction of High-Power Lasers with PlasmasApplications of Laser-Plasma Interactions

Hosted by Amalia Ishak

The following video is raw footage edited from camera digital files by Tom Tamarkin for continuity. It is provided here for educational purposes only without commercial value. As our project develops and financial conditions allow this raw footage will be “mined” for sound bites and topical excerpts edited into various video productions.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4
Discussing Dr. Neeman’s advocacy of developing fusion energy to the Israeli knesset in 1980

Irvin Lindemuth, Ph.D.

Irv LindemuthDr. Irvin Lindemuth is by many measures considered to be the “father” of the Magnetized Target branch of fusion energy research and proposed solutions to commercial power.

Recognizing that the facility cost was a large component of the R&D cost which was the principal impediment to the progress of fusion development at the time, around the mid-1990’s, Drs. Irv Lindemuth, Richard Siemon and Kurt Schoenberg of Los Alamos National Laboratory began to examine the cost of developing various fusion concepts in a fundamental way. The fusion parameter space is spanned by two basic plasma parameters, namely the plasma density and the magnetic field embedded in the plasma, which govern the physics of attaining fusion burn. The tokomak attempts to burn a plasma at a density of 1020 ions per m3 in a magnetic field of several teslas (T), while laser ICF attempts to burn a plasma at a density of 1032 ions per m3. In conventional ICF, no external magnetic field is applied to the target, but laser-plasma interaction can self-generate magnetic fields up to about 100 T. Essentially, these two mainline approaches sit at two extreme isolated spots in the fusion parameter space.

The results of the Lindemuth, et al, analysis were presented in various papers, workshops and conferences, since the mid-1990’s and recently collected and published in their paper of 2009 [3]. The principal results of their analysis are: 

  1. The cost of plasma confinement is proportional to the thermal energy or the fuel mass in the confined plasma, whereas the cost of plasma heating is proportional to the required heating power density. The cost of a breakeven fusion facility is the combined cost of confining the burning plasma at breakeven and the cost of heating the plasma up to ignition.
  2. For magnetically confined plasma, the amount of plasma energy required to produce fusion ignition is approximately inversely proportional to the square root of the plasma density.
  3. For fusion approaches that use compression to heat the plasma, the power density of the compression required is proportional to the fuel density and the velocity of implosion.
  4. The net results of the analysis for the cost of a breakeven fusion facility as a function of the fuel ion density and temperature is shown in Figure 3, which correctly explains the costs of ITER and NIF. ITER corresponds to a point in Figure 3 for a density of 1014 ions per cc and temperature of 104 eV (108 degrees K.) NIF corresponds to a point of 1025 ions per cc and the same temperature.
  5. There appears to be a sweet spot where the burning plasma density is in the range 1019 to 1022 ions per cc. In this sweet spot, the stunning result of their analysis is that fusion approach exists for which breakeven fusion facility might very well cost as low as $51M!  (A typical nuclear fission power plant costs in excess of $5.5 billion 2008 USD.)

Dr. Lindemuth retired in November 2003 after more than 32 years with the University of California, first at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and then at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. At Los Alamos at the time of his retirement, Dr. Lindemuth was a special assistant for Russian collaboration in the Office of the Associate Director for Weapons Physics, the team leader for Magnetohydrodynamics and Pulsed Power in the Plasma Physics Group, and a project leader for Pulsed Power Science, Technology, and International Collaboration in the High Energy Density Hydrodynamics Program. His primary responsibility was to provide technical leadership for a scientific collaboration between Los Alamos and Los Alamos’s Russian counterpart, the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF) at Sarov (Arzamas-16). Prior to joining Los Alamos in 1978, he was a technical staff member in A-Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he was involved in fusion research.

Dr. Lindemuth received his BS degree in electrical engineering in 1965 from Lehigh University, where he was a Hertz Scholar, and his MS and PhD degrees in applied science engineering in 1967 and 1971, respectively, from the University of California, Davis/Livermore, where he was a Hertz Fellow. His thesis research was conducted under the advisorship of Dr. John Killeen, founder of the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center. One of his graduate school advisors was Edward Teller.

He has been an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico Los Alamos branch, where he has taught engineering and mathematics courses. He spent the 1991-92 academic year as a visiting professor in the Nuclear Engineering Department of Texas A&M University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, helped lay the groundwork for the Department’s expansion into the controlled fusion area, and assisted the Department in forming collaborations with Russian laboratories and educational institutions.

Although he has never participated in the US inertial confinement fusion or magnetic confinement fusion programs, his areas of expertise include thermonuclear fusion and advanced numerical methods for the computer simulation of fusion plasmas and related pulsed power technology. He has published numerous papers in refereed journals and proceedings of major international conferences. He has been involved in a wide range of fusion and high energy density physics programs spanning essentially all of the ten orders of magnitude in density and time space from magnetic fusion energy plasmas to inertial confinement fusion plasmas. An internationally recognized pioneer in the application of implicit, non-split computational methods to magnetohydrodynamics, he has achieved widespread recognition for his large-scale numerical simulations of a variety of fusion and other high-density plasma systems. In addition to his accomplishments in modeling high temperature plasmas, he has formulated a variety of novel pulsed power computer codes that have led to important advances in laboratory programs. His codes have stimulated the development of several types of fast opening switches.

He is a U.S. pioneer in Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) and performed the first comprehensive survey of the parameter space in which MTF was likely to work. Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he recognized that the Soviets had developed advanced technology in the areas of ultrahigh magnetic fields and ultrahigh energy electrical pulse generation that significantly exceeded U.S. capabilities and that were motivated by the Soviet MTF program known as MAGO. In January 1992, he became the first American scientist to present a formal scientific seminar at one of the formerly secret, and still closed, Russian nuclear weapons design laboratories. Dr. Lindemuth played an essential role in establishing the collaboration with VNIIEF, a collaboration that has helped integrate Russian weapons scientists into the global scientific community and that has resulted in more than 300 conference papers and archival publications. The LANL/VNIIEF collaboration, and Dr. Lindemuth’s role in it, were featured in the Discovery Channel documentary, Stockpile, which first aired in 2001. In 1992, Dr. Lindemuth was the recipient of a Los Alamos Distinguished Performance Award for his work in the formative stages of the LANL/VNIIEF collaboration.

In 2004, he was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Dr. Lindemuth currently resides in Tucson, Arizona and is a part-time research faculty member of the Physics Department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

1971 – The Alternating-Direction Implicit Numerical Solution of Time-Dependent, Two-Dimensional, Two-Fluid Magnetohydrodynamic Equations



A Tutorial on The Parameter Space of Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) or Magneto Inertial Fusion Invited tutorial presented at annual meeting of American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics, San Jose, CA, October 31-November 4, 2016

The Ignition Design Space of Magnetized Target Fusion Irvin Lindemuth Ph.D., Dec. 28, 2015

Why Magnetized Target Fusion Offers A Low-Cost Development Path for Fusion Energy, Richard E. Siemon, P h.D., Irvin R. Lindemuth, Ph.D., Kurt F. Schoenberg, Ph.D.

The Case for Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF), Irvin Lindemuth, Ph.D.

The fundamental parameter space of controlled thermonuclear fusion by Irvin R. Lindemuth & Richard Siemon

Irv Lindemuth Ph.D. Review of Plasma Jet Driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion & Letter to Congress on Fusion Funding includes private correspondence between Dr. Lindemuth and Tom Tamarkin as well as a more comprehensive biography on Dr. Lindemuth.

Kip Siegel

Kip Siegel

Inspired by Dr. Teller’s work, and his prophetic warning to keep people informed, a Michigan physics professor named Dr. Keeve (Kip) Siegel formed the first and only private-sector company to pursue controlled fusion research using lasers. In the early 1970s, he formed KMS Industries, with the goal of successfully achieving laser inertial fusion energy.

With private funding, on May 1, 1974, KMS carried out the world’s first successful laser-induced fusion reaction in the laboratory, using deuterium-tritium in pellets. His breakthrough was acknowledged by our Energy Department and leading scientists around the world, including France and Russia. In December 1974, Forbes Magazine published a story about KMS … and the government’s attempts to shut it down!

What? You heard me. Shut it down. Because of pressure from rabid anti-nuclear groups (and the government’s insistence this should be controlled by them, not private industry), Dr. Siegel was brought before Congress to testify on what he and his company had proven in the area of nuclear fusion power and his research. It was not the most hospitable environment – and Dr. Siegel, only 52 years old, died of a stroke, in the hearing, before he could complete his testimony before the American people.

See the Pat Boone – Tom Tamarkin article which discusses this

LastTechAge 2015/02/15

KMS Fusion – an addendum

KMS Fusion, an early ICF group mostly remembered for its mashup of good science and bad politics. This is our historical addendum.

An excellent article on the beginning of ICF (inertial confinement fusion) was posted on January 28th by ScienceLine’s Chelsey Coombes. This is a summary of Alex Wellerstein‘s presentation at the October 2014 meeting of the New York Academy of Science.

Wellerstein is a respected science historian specializing in American Classified research, and is located at Stevens Institute of Technology.

icf labs

Fig 1
Early ICF labs cited in this report

Coombes’ (and Wellerstein’s) good discussion of the early days of inertial confinement fusion traces development of the LLNL indirect drive approach and the KMS fusion direct drive alternative (see Fig 1). We also discuss, in passing, ICF efforts at LANL.

We add a missing link to the KMSf story, one that I have never seen mention in any published description of the early days of fusion energy research. This small band of researchers produced some of the best results in ICF physics in the 1970s and even the ’80s, but their leadership made stunningly bad political mistakes that got themselves ignored by history.

KMSf lost government funding in 1990 and closed as a fusion research and support organization. Since then, their science results have been marginalized, their people disparaged.

ICF target implosion

Fig 2
Diagram of ICF target implosion for both direct and indirect methods

Fig 2 is our diagram of the direct and indirect drive interaction that is central to the ICF process. We show a simple shell; LLNL, in particular, designs highly complex configurations.

I have not seen any configuration that is more successful than the one shown here, although NIF estimates that its target provides perhaps 7½% lower growth for RT instabilities than this.

The target is a fuel-containing sphere, with a hard outer shell; the beam strikes the shell and causes ablative burn-off of the outer layer. The explosively burned off shell-plasma generates the reactive force that compresses the fuel layer into a compact core, for fusion density and temperature.

ICF words

Direct drive, Indirect drive, hohlraum
ICF in the beginning

Fusion energy research started in the 1960s by two different physicists independently developing their ideas along two very different paths for ICF.

A “drive beam” could be from a laser, a particle accelerator (different types of ion beams have been tried or discussed), or, it could be radiation from a nearby explosion.

Hohlraum geometry was a severely classified concept until the early 1990s; but in the late 1980s, a German scientist decided to describe it to me, personally, to show know he knew everything, despite U.S. secrecy.

John Nuckolls

Fig 3
John Nuckolls, 1969. Father of indirect drive ICF techniques (1930 – … )

John Nuckolls In the late 1950s, Nuckolls (Fig 3) developed the idea of using a laser to cause a small capsule to implode, reach the condition needed for fusion, and generate power. He did this work in the ultra classified hydrogen bomb effort at LLNL and shared the ideas with other bomb workers in 1960.

His idea – use a variant of the classified hohlraum idea and focus laser beams onto the cavity’s inner surface.

Nuckolls’ work was born classified and stayed that way. But, in 1972, he was allowed to publish a carefully composed article in the journal Nature. By 1988, when the New York Times published a clear description of hohlraums, every interested physicist in the world knew how indirect drive ICF worked.

Nuckolls became head of the LLNL laser fusion program that built the series of laser fusion test labs, including the current NIF facility. In 1988 he became Director of the laboratory but was forced to resign in 1995 – management improprieties.

Keith Brueckner

Fig 4
Keith Brueckner, 1970s. Father of direct drive ICF techniques (1924-2014)

Keith Brueckner In 1969, Brueckner (Fig 4) worked out the basic physics for what is now called the direct drive technique, to separate it from hohlraum indirect drive method.

Brueckner was a theoretical physicist at UCSD in San Diego and had also worked at Los Alamos (LANL) in New Mexico, among other places. His LANL experience was the justification for the government attempt to label direct drive as classified material.

He was allowed to publish details in the early 1970s, but only after Nuckolls had been allowed to publish is indirect drive work.

By the end of the late 1960s, Brueckner was in discussion with Keeve M (Kip) Siegel, professor at the University of Michigan, and a pugnacious risk-taker.

Siegel (Fig 5) sold off his resources from his patents and many companies, to form KMS fusion, Inc. By 1973, the group had built Chroma, the then-largest (IR) laser in the world.

In 1974, they published neutron yield data demonstrating the first laser-driven fusion results of any type, and demonstrated that their proprietary method worked. This embarrassed the LLNL effort that had worked longer and used H-Bomb technologies.

The KMSf results used direct drive IR (infra red) beams from Chroma and the results were taken skeptically by the outside fusion community. The KMSf team never claimed they had made a fusing core, just that they had neutron evidence that laser beams had caused fusion reactions. The results were valid, but they generated anger and even venom.

KMS fusion’s ICF Technology

The key to getting good implosion structure is to have completely uniform illumination all about the surface of the target shell.

“Hot” spots in a beam will cause dimples to form on the shell and the implosive compression can be highly non-symmetric. The central collapse region will become a core of multiple knots, none reaching ignition conditions – each knot so small that ions can drift out of it before they participate in fusion. Inertially confined ions require that the fusion region be large enough so that thermal speeds will not dissipate a knot before the ions fuse.

DBIS for uniform illumination The KMS technique was to use what they called their double bounce illumination system (DBIS) meaning that 2 mirrors were needed so that one beam can be expanded and reflected to strike 1/2 of the target. The original beam is pre-split into two beams which symmetrically illuminate the entire target surface.

DBIS-1 Kent_Moncur

Fig 6
DBIS-1, used in 1974 tests, with Kent Moncur, head of KMSf highly innovative Chroma Laser group (1989)

Fig 6 shows the original DBIS mirror cavity with Kent Moncur, the Head of the Chroma laser program. His group developed the first shaped pulse capability in laser fusion, along with its variable pulse width capability. He was supported by the entire talented group of optical engineers and technicians.


Fig 7
1 of 4 holographic images from single shot.

Gar Busch, in the laser group, tapped a portion of the Chroma beam to make the uniquely valuable holographic interferometer system that took up to 4 snapshots during a pulse that displayed shape and density contours of the plasma. Fig 7 is one record for a flat plate receiving laser power from opposite directions. Our post NIF-3 shows a different shot.

I am proud to have worked with the entire team of talented and innovative laser engineers.

The DBIS-1 mirror was damaged a bit more every pulse; it was upgraded by DBIS-2.

DBIS-2 ray paths KMS Fusion

Fig 8
DBIS-2 ray paths KMS Fusion, 1974-1986

Fig 8 shows the path that the laser beams follow through the mirror chamber and to the target. The main beam is split into Left and Right beamlets. The paths are matched so that the arrival-on-target time is identical to within a tiny fraction of a nanosecond. (Firm numbers are no longer available to me.) Only the Right beam path is shown for simplicity.

Each beam goes through a lens that focuses it through a small hole in its mirror and immediately expands to cross the target and reflect off the opposite mirror surface. The mirrors are carefully figured a-spheres and the reflected rays spread out further to the opposite mirror which focuses the beam directly onto the target surface. The double bounce is required to properly spread the beam for nearly uniform convergence over the target, with the least power damage to the mirrors.

DBIS-2 Art

Fig 9
Display art about DBIS, Front lobby, KMS fusion, late 1989

Fig 9 shows the dramatically beautiful art that was at the entrance to the building lobby. The beams are entering the illumination chamber from both right and left directions, but, again, only the right side is fully detailed.

The DBIS-2 mirror segments are shown pulled apart for clarity, the paths are not to scale.


Fig 10
KMS Fusion DBIS-2 target enclosure. On display 1989

Fig 10 shows the DBIS-2 mirror chamber cleaned up and mounted for display after DOE informed management that the 1986 sequence was the last target implosion fusion test campaign KMSf would ever be allowed to run.

The display was built by volunteers, a work of love by the employees. I took a DBIS diagram from one of the annual reports and sketched a 3D diagram. Larry Fleeman, a young designer in Engineering made a careful CAD diagram using my drawing and also engineering prints. The commercial artists did sketches of the device and used the CAD results for the accurate painting. Meanwhile, Clark Charnetski painstakingly rebuilt the device that had been in storage for a several years, and assembled it into its best form. All the wiring was correct and the glass and mirror surfaces were cleaned with care. Clark was the master of the optical system, his skill made our implosion tests successful. He was responsible for both DBIS -1 and -2. The Design Engineering Head, Bill Groves, constructed the display stand, made up of carefully hand selected special wood, pieced together and hand rubbed to a museum-like finish. He made the seamless acrylic box cover and hinged it to the stand.

DBIS-2 operated in the final 1986 sequence where results demonstrated the very important need for targets with cryogenic (cold solid) DT fuel on the inner wall, shaped laser pulses (Intensity proportional to t2) to generate near-adiabatic compression, the need for short pulse times, and special care toward symmetry of targets and illumination schemes. These results were too spectacular for the time and were discounted. But these are lessons NIF seems to be re-inventing.

Roy Johnson and his team published the 1986 campaign results (Phys Rev A, 41, 2 (15 Jan 1990), pp 1058-1070) after very careful data analysis, and computer modeling. They were very aware that their results would be criticized and they did a thorough job. Good scientists worked at KMSf from its start. Good, innovative scientists worked there when it was closed.

Technical postscript. When I was with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in the early 1990s, I visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In one of the hallways I passed through, I saw our display stand. It had been bashed in with splintered sections and the finish as marred and gouged. The Acrylic top was missing, as was any sign of DBIS-2. When I asked about this piece of junk, a LANL physicist just laughed. I asked about the mirror chamber. “It makes a great boat anchor” said he. How did this reach LANL hands?

By the late 1970s, it was well understood that IR (long wavelength infra red) beams made fusion success impossible. The IR beam loses much of its power to heating the electrons in the abating plasma, which in turn, preheats the imploding fuel. The back pressure in the fuel prevents an ignitable core from ever forming. The immediate fix was to frequency double the deep, deep red light to green. By the mid 1980s, virtually every ICF lab was investigating frequency tripled light into the blue. Los Alamos started their innovative Aurora KrF laser to directly emit UV (short wavelength ultra violet) beams for high compression efficiency, and had began start-up before 1990. I never learned why this underfunded program was terminated, nor what happened to its KrF facility.

KMS fusion Conclusion
KMS timeline

retrospective KMSf management started with respected physicists, who engaged in very silly politics. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Department of Defense tried to classify their work, tried to take away even the original notes, and blocked them from access to laser fusion information. In retaliation, KMSf minimized government access to its lab.

I was told an amusing story several times by the older physicists and engineers in our group. After the 1974 neutron results, LLNL staffers said that what was done was impossible and demanded that they be allowed on-site to review the data. This was not unreasonable. But the KMS staff wanted revenge, so they declared DBIS to be Corporate Classified material, that is, deep proprietary. They moved it to a closet during the visit and stationed guards at the door, to emphasize the point. Pretty funny, right?

ICF fusion leaders never forgave. When the DBIS information was released, there was no way the bunch of KMS hyenas could do anything right. Kip Siegel had his wealth and even insurance invested in KMS, he gave his all by stroking out at a 1975 Congressional hearing during a plea for support. So KMSf survived, but he did not. Pretty funny, right?

Ownership change Top management changed about 1980 when (very) non-technical entrepreneurs from Canada bought the company and saved it from closing. I was at General Atomic when a couple real estate sales guys from Colorado, the Blue brothers, bought it and saved GA from closing. I thought this would be a disaster but leadership change worked for GA – very well indeed. Wish I could say the same for KMSf.

IR lasers cannot drive fusion KMS really needed to upgrade its Chroma. Frequency doubling to green caused a crucial loss of power delivered to target and, even though the Target Development Group had invented ways of making low mass shells with highly uniform cryogenic DT fuel layers, target physics demanded more power for best success.

A uniform solid DT target layer is due to a self correcting process named Beta Heating by the discoverers, scientists in our target group. Recently I have seen it referred to by a different name. Maybe to divorce the process from KMS associations?

CEO to the rescue(?) Our CEO (& Chairman-For-Life of the Board of Directors) took up the challenge and called all the laser labs to ask for support. His way to generate support was to inform them of the consequences of dissent. For example, a lab leader like Bob McCrory, head of LLE (Rochester New York) was told that unless he supported our upgrade, KMS would focus its congressional lobby to assure that LLE lost major funding. Funny story, right?

I was at an ICF leadership conference in the late 1980s. I was half way across the room but recall Bob bouncing up and down on his toes screaming at our Tim Henderson (VP at the time, and one of our experienced fusion engineers). He was yelling something like: You think I can forget? Huh? I will NEVER forget! over and over, inches from Tim’s face. I was new to ICF management and the shock blanked out of my memory his exact words. That was when I understood, truly, how much a fool our owner was.

The KMSf final program review by DOE was a joke. Some physicists, such as Marshall Rosenbluth, had no intention of wasting his time – so he filed a devastating review on material he had never read and did not show up to see. The only real question – how fast could KMS be taken down? (This is where Ed Gabl first presented possibly important results showing plasma jets driven from regions near laser spots.)

Roy Johnson’s 1986 publication on the DBIS-2 campaign was indeed discounted by the ICF community.

Appropriate scientific response to spectacular but uncertain results would be to insist on a repeat of the experiment with outside observers and diagnostics that the critics would accept. The actual response was not scientific criticism, it was herd-behavior bloviation. (oops! I meant to add IMHO.) The upstart KMS-ers dared to use data to differ from those by LLNL and its direct-drive sidekicks at LLE, such things were not meant to happen.

I happened to lead a tour for a visiting congressman in 1989. During that walk-through, he told me that he knew that Chroma was obsolete: too small to be at all useful for American research. During our final review, the KMSf target team was characterized as incapable of understanding what they were doing, had actually schemed to make bad targets for its customers at LLNL, LANL, and LLE. In addition: The physics team was made of of disconnected people who never worked together, never did anything innovative and were not worth consideration.

KMSf, the first and only private company to be engaged in ICF studies, closed in 1990.

  • In 1991, General Atomics (the new target manufacturer) eagerly hired every single person from the target group they could convince to move to California.
  • Two thirds of the obsolete Chroma laser was sent to Los Alamos to be dedicated as the Trident facility, where it has been upgraded over the years and is still doing valid research.
  • I am not sure what happened to all in the physics staff. I do know of several who were hired directly and several others who refused to work in government projects again, but I lost contact with nearly everyone.

No one has ever tried to build another visible light implosion cavity similar to DBIS. In fact, we in America seem to have put ICF fusion on hold, waiting for our intrepid LLNL miracle workers. NIF estimates were very clear. Based on their LASNEX wonder code, they knew then would have success by 2012. Didn’t happen

In late 1989, as Head of the physics group, I made contact with the Smithsonian to see if we could donate DBIS-2 and DBIS-1 as a part of our American technical heritage. I made several contacts with a Mr Bernard Finn, who responded as though he were talking to a crackpot. I was informed that physics historian Paul Forman, the nominal contact for this kind of gift would too busy to be involved with our discussion. Several other KMS people also contacted Mr. Finn. In my last contact, Mr. Finn asked me to send written documentation about our achievements, maybe he would get back to me. My memory of this is clear – he seemed to be chuckling during this conversation. … our custodians of American science history.

Root causes I see KMSf as a sad story, an early demonstration of over enthusiastic pronouncements prior to actual data arriving – their code phrase in 1974 was “on line by ’79.” NIF is a current demonstration; the companies in our Paths Not Taken sequence are others. But it also is a brutal consequence of the harsh cutbacks in American funding for fusion. As we have pointed out many times, funding was appropriated in 1980 but the Reaganites cut the legs off our fusion programs – an amputation that is going strong today. Our culture draws ever closer to our day of reckoning for our change of the American social balance.


I have mentioned only few of the people who should be recognized and I apologize; it’s been many years and I have certainly missed some who should be in this list, especially those working to make the wonderful DBIS entry display. Points of pride for us all – KMS work with physics tests; KMS work with laser development; KMS excellence in target development and manufacture; and our volunteer efforts at the end to showcase our company.

The KMSf images here are my own digitizations of photographs. They are all high resolution TIFF files, many tens of megabytes large. You can request a copy by clicking the [LastTechAge] menu under our banner and select [Send Message].

Our final topic is the speculative idea sketched in the Postscript after the sign off.


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2015 Feb 15

Postscript: A speculative idea

In early 1991, Tim Henderson (VP) called a meeting of senior physics staff for an idea exchange. What would we do if we could do what we wanted?

To me, the main problem with our DBIS-2 was (A) mirror damage by beam hot spots and (B) cost of replacing the damaged mirrors.

Mulitmirror DBIS Concept

Fig 11
Multi-mirror DBIS Concept

I sketched a DBIS upgrade, very similar to Fig 11, here. This was inspired by the multi-mirror telescope proposals of the time. I still think it might hold merit.

We would use a single beam (to maintain temporal symmetry) that is split into two beamlets for entry into the evacuated mirror reflection cavity, maybe 2 to 3 m in diameter.

Inside would be a scaffold holding tightly packed flat mirrors, perhaps 1 cm across. The proper figure would be maintained by the scaffold and the mirrors would be aimed by piezo actuators. When the surface of any mirror was damaged, it could be replaced by an inexpensive clone. The advantage of small flat mirrors is light is not focused into a pinpoint, but into a wider target-sized area. This spreads beam hot spots across the target, and will not drive RT dimples. Many such computer controlled mirrors would be needed and I am not sure how tightly the mirrors would have to fit together to send most of the drive beam onto target.

Dr. Robert L. Hirsch

Dr. Robert Hirsch

Robert L. Hirsch, Ph.D., is a former senior energy program adviser for Science Applications International Corporation and is a Senior Energy Advisor at MISI and a consultant in energy, technology, and management. His primary experience is in research, development, and commercial applications. He has managed technology programs in oil and natural gas exploration and >petroleum refining, fusion, fission, renewables, defense technologies,chemical analysis, and basic research, for example the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor.

Oil decline vs Climate Change Robert L. Hirsch

Robert Hirsch – Peak Oil: Exploring the Risk Factors

More Videos

The Impending World Oil Shortage: Learning from the Past Robert L. Hirsch

Peak Oil Robert L. Hirsch (Part 1 of 2)
Peak Oil Robert L. Hirschd (Part 2 of 2)

Professional experience

Hirsch has served on numerous advisory committees related to energy development, and he is the principal author of the report Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management, which was written for the United States Department of Energy.

Hirsch directed the US fusion energy program during the 1970s evolution of the Atomic Energy Commission (including initiation of the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor), through the Energy Research and Development Administration to the present Department of Energy. In addition to his role in development of fusion energy by magnetic confinement, Hirsch was also interested in inertially confined fusion.

His previous management positions include:

  • Senior Energy Program Advisor, SAIC (World oil production)
  • Senior Energy Analyst,RAND (Various energy studies)
  • Vice President of the Electric Power Research Institute(EPRI).
  • Vice President and Manager of Research and Technical Services for Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) (Oil and gas exploration and production).
  • Founder and CEO of APTI, a roughly $50 million/year company now owned by BAE Systems. (Commercial & Defense Department technologies).
  • Manager of Exxon’s synthetic fuels research laboratory.
  • Manager of Petroleum Exploratory Research at Exxon. (Refining R & D).
  • Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) responsible for renewables, fusion, geothermal and basic research. (Presidential Appointment).
  • Director of fusion research at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and ERDA.

Hirsch has served as a consultant and on advisory committees for government and industry. He is past Chairman of the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academies, has served on a number of National Research Council committees, and is a National Associate of the National Academies. In recent years, he has focused on problems associated with the peaking of world conventional oil production and its mitigation.

Energy policy

In 2008, Hirsch stated that declines in world oil supply caused proportionate declines in world GDP. His suggested framework for mitigation planning included:
“(1) a Best Case where maximum world oil production is followed by a multi-year plateau before the onset of a monotonic decline rate of 2-5% per year; (2) A Middling Case, where world oil production reaches a maximum, after which it drops into a long-term, 2-5% monotonic annual decline; and finally (3) a Worst Case, where the sharp peak of the Middling Case is degraded by oil exporter withholding, leading to world oil shortages growing potentially more rapidly than 2-5% per year, creating the most dire world economic impacts.”

Fusion Research: Time to Set a New Path by Robert L. Hirsch

Peak oil: “A conspiracy to keep it quiet” in Washington – Interview with Robert L. Hirsch (in 2 parts)


Hirsch Book Links

Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management

The Impending World Energy Mess

Robert Bussard

Robert W. Bussard (August 11, 1928 – October 6, 2007) was an American physicist who worked primarily in nuclear fusion energy research. He was the recipient of the Schreiber-Spence Achievement Award for STAIF-2004.  He was also a fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics and held a Ph.D. from Princeton University.

In June, 1955 Bussard moved to Los Alamos and joined the Nuclear Propulsion Division’s Project Rover designing nuclear thermal rocket engines. Bussard and R.D. DeLauer wrote two important monographs on nuclear propulsion, Nuclear Rocket Propulsion and Fundamentals of Nuclear Flight.

In 1960, Bussard conceived of the Bussard ramjet, an interstellar space drive powered by hydrogen fusion using hydrogen collected with a magnetic field from the interstellar gas. Due to the presence of high-energy particles throughout space, much of the interstellar hydrogen exists in an ionized state (H II regions) that can be manipulated by magnetic or electric fields. Bussard proposed to “scoop” up ionized hydrogen and funnel it into a fusion reactor, using the exhaust from the reactor as a rocket engine.

It appears the energy gain in the reactor must be extremely high for the ramjet to work at all; any hydrogen picked up by the scoop must be sped up to the same speed as the ship in order to provide thrust, and the energy required to do so increases with the ship’s speed. Hydrogen itself does not fuse very well (unlike deuterium, which is rare in the interstellar medium), and so cannot be used directly to produce energy, a fact which accounts for the billion-year scale of stellar lifetimes. This problem was solved, in principle, according to Dr. Bussard by use of the stellar CNO cycle in which carbon is used as a catalyst to burn hydrogen via the strong nuclear reaction.

In the early 1970s Dr. Bussard became Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch at the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of what was then known as the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak. In June 1995, Bussard claimed in a letter to all fusion laboratories, as well as to key members of the US Congress, that he and the other founders of the program supported the Tokamak not out of conviction that it was the best technical approach but rather as a vehicle for generating political support, thereby allowing them to pursue “all the hopeful new things the mainline labs would not try”

Bussard’s 1995 letter to the United States Congress with a proposed fusion energy bill which provided an interesting set of milestone based financial incentives to private enterprise may be viewed here.

Bussard worked on a promising new type of inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) fusor, called the Polywell, that has a magnetically shielded grid (MaGrid). He founded Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation, Inc. (EMC2) in 1985 to validate his theory, and tested several (15) experimental devices from 1994 through 2006. The U.S. Navy contract funding that supported the work expired while experiments were still small. However, the final tests of the last device, WB-6, reputedly solved the last remaining physics problem just as the funding expired and the EMC2 labs had to be shut down.

Further funding was eventually found, the work continued and the WB-7 prototype was constructed and tested, and the research is ongoing.

During 2006 and 2007, Bussard sought the large-scale funding necessary to design and construct a full-scale Polywell fusion power plant.  His fusor design is feasible enough, he asserted, to render unnecessary the construction of larger and larger test models still too small to achieve break-even. Also, the scaling of power with size goes as the seventh power of the machine radius, while the gain scales as the fifth power, so there is little incentive to build half-scale systems; one might as well build the real thing.

On March 29, 2006, Bussard claimed on the internet forum that EMC² had developed an inertial electrostatic confinement fusion process that was 100,000 times more efficient than previous designs, but that the US Navy budget line item that supported the work was zero-funded in FY2006.

Bussard provided more details of his breakthrough and the circumstances surrounding the end of his Navy funding in a letter to the James Randi Educational Foundation internet forum on June 23.

From October 2, 2006 to October 6, 2006, Bussard presented an informal overview of the previous decade of his work at the 57th International Astronautical Congress. This was the first publication of this work in 11 years, as the U.S. Navy had put an embargo on publications of the research, in 1994.

Adapted from Robert W. Bussard Wikipedia entry

Robert J. Goldston

Robert Goldston

Robert J. Goldston

Professor of Astrophysical Sciences

Inertial Confinement Fusion R&D and Nuclear Proliferation


  • B.A., Physics, Harvard University, 1972
  • Ph.D., Astrophysical Sciences, Program in Plasma Physics, Princeton University, 1977

Research Interests
I started my research career studying how plasmas are heated by energetic ions. I did experimental research on fast ion thermalization in tokamaks, finding for example classical slowing down and pitch angle scattering, including onto banana orbits. I developed the first version of the now world-standard Monte Carlo code to calculate neutral beam heating. I did theoretical calculations on the effects of toroidal field ripple on fast ions and alpha particles, finding an equivalent to the Chirikov overlap criterion. I also found the first fast-ion instability in a tokamak, the “fishbone”, and explained its resonance interaction with fast ions due to a drift-precession resonance.

This work evolved into research on energy confinement in tokamaks. I found that a remarkable reproducibility in the reported experimental scalings, and develop a scaling relation that predicted the operation of the next generation of large tokamaks (TFTR, JET, JT-60) with surprising accuracy. I pointed out that these results were consistent in magnitude and general scaling with what I called “Gyro-reduced Bohm” (now called Gyro-Bohm) transport to be expected from drift-wave turbulence. I then worked on the design of next-step experimental devices: BPX, TPX and NSTX.

My research activities were interrupted for 12 years by my responsibilities as Director of PPPL. We finished the clean-up of TFTR, got NSTX operating, moved PPPL into the forefront of advanced computing, and launched ITER. We were not able to complete the construction of a new stellarator, NCSX, but instead launched a major upgrade for NSTX.

Since stepping down as Director in 2009 I have continued to follow the energy flow in fusion to what I consider now to be the most crucial area, the plasma-material interface. Recently I developed a heuristic drift-based theory for the scrape-off layer width in tokamaks that predicts with remarkable accuracy both the magnitude and scaling that has been measured on ASDEX-Upgrade, C-MOD, DIII-D, JET and NSTX. I am also interested in the physics and engineering of liquid metal, particularly lithium, plasma-facing components. Liquid metals are self-healing, apparently thermally self-shielding, and lithium in particular is so low-Z that it neither radiates from the plasma core nor is pulled into the plasma by neoclassical forces.

A major parallel interest of mine has been nuclear nonproliferation as it applies to both fission and fusion energy systems. I have also begun to work on a “Zero-Knowledge” approach to verifying nuclear warheads as part of disarmament.

Awards & Honors

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Excellence in Plasma Physics

AST 309 Science and Technology of Nuclear Energy: Fission and Fusion

Selected Publications

  • Eich, T. et al . Inter-ELM Power Decay Length for JET and ASDEX Upgrade: Measurement and Comparison with Heuristic Drift-Based Model. Phys. Rev. Lett. 107 , 215001 (2011).
  • Glaser, A. & Goldston, R. J. Proliferation risks of magnetic fusion energy: clandestine production, covert production and breakout. Nucl Fusion 52, 043004 (2012).
  • Goldston, R. J. Heuristic drift-based model of the power scrape-off width in low-gas-puff H-mode tokamaks. Nucl Fusion 52, 013009 (2012).
  • Goldston, R. J. When is it valid to assume that heat flux is parallel to B? J. Nucl. Mater. 415, S566-S569 (2011).
  • Goldston, R. J. Climate Change, Nuclear Power, and Nuclear Proliferation: Magnitude Matters. Science & Global Security 19, 130-165 (2011).
  • Goldston, R. J. Downstream heat flux profile versus midplane T profile in tokamaks. Phys Plasmas 17, 012503 (2010).

Princeton University