Monday 29 January 2007: Clean Fusion Energy: HiPER project to be led by the UK

CCLRC has endorsed a submission to the European Commission in which the UK will take the coordinating, lead role in a 3-year project to prepare the case for construction of the proposed HiPER laser facility.

The European 'HIgh Power laser Energy Research' facility, HiPER, is a major science project being designed to demonstrate a high technology solution for a long-term supply of environmentally clean energy, whilst supporting a broad base of fundamental research.

HiPER will be designed to investigate the newest concept for efficient generation of power from fusion - the power of the Sun. A demonstration that energy can be produced from laser driven fusion is already due in the period 2010-2012, initially in the USA and subsequently in France. The HiPER project has been designed to move from this scientific proof of concept to establish a credible route towards a commercial power plant, using a new technique known as 'fast ignition'.


An artist's impression of HIPER

Whilst the pursuit of a future clean energy source is the principal goal of HiPER, the capability offered by a state-of-the-art laser has not escaped the wider scientific community. Proposals to make use of HiPER are being incorporated into the design, covering fields as diverse as extreme material science, astrophysics in the laboratory, miniaturised particle accelerators, and a wide array of fundamental physics studies.

A consortium of over 50 senior laser and plasma scientists from 10 countries have worked over the past two years to prepare the conceptual design of HiPER. This proposal was recently accepted onto the European Roadmap for future research facilities. The upcoming 'preparatory phase' project is anticipated to last three years, preparing the case for construction of this €800M facility. This phase will seek funding from the EC, co-funding from major laser institutions and will make use of existing research facilities across Europe.

This project will coordinate the large European laser community to ensure maximum societal benefit is obtained from their work. A key aspect of this will be to use the PETAL laser facility under construction in Bordeaux. This is an intermediate scale laser which will be directly linked to the HiPER project to ensure the rate of progress is as fast as possible.

The future location of HiPER will be explored over the next 3 years. Professor Mike Dunne, Director of the Central Laser Facility, said "The UK is the leading potential host, consistent with the wider drive for the UK to take a leading position in high profile science with strong economic impact."

Notes for editors

Further details on the HiPER project can be found at http://www.hiperlaser.eu

Demonstration of energy production from laser driven fusion is expected in the period 2010-2012 from the National Ignition Facility, an extremely large laser nearing completion in California http://www.llnl.gov/nif/project/index.html. A similar facility is under construction in Bordeaux, called Laser MegaJoule.

The HiPER conceptual design has been produced by over 50 senior scientists from the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic and Canada.

The construction cost of HiPER is estimated at €800M. The timeline for construction is: two years conceptual design (now completed); three years preparatory phase design; five years construction; two years commissioning. Operation is therefore anticipated towards the end of the next decade, assuming funding is granted.

The European roadmap is published by ESFRI http://cordis.europa.eu/esfri/. It outlines opportunities for future large scale science facilities. Following this, the European Commission (EC) announced dedicated funding as part of Framework Programme 7 to progress these facility projects to the point at which construction decisions can be made. The deadline for proposals to make use of this funding is 2nd May 2007. Details on the European Commission's 'preparatory phase construction' programme can be found at http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/capacities/research-infrastructures_en.html

The ESFRI roadmap consists of 35 scientific opportunities and CCLRC has a particular interest in several of them:

  • An upgrade programme for ESRF, the most powerful high energy synchrotron light source in Europe.
  • An upgrade at the Institut Laue Langevin to enhance the production of slow neutrons - the most cost effective response in the short to medium term to users' requirements.
  • The case for a next generation neutron source, ESS, planned to be the world's most powerful source of neutrons which will serve 4000 users annually across many areas of science and technology.
  • Options for developing new light sources based on Free Electron Lasers, including demonstration and technological development phases (4GLS).
  • The case for the HiPER (HIgh Power laser Energy Research facility) laser project to demonstrate a high technology solution for a long-term supply of environmentally clean energy.

The Council for the Central Laboratory for the Research Council is one of eight UK research councils and is one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research organisation supporting scientists and engineers across the world. It operates world-class large scale research facilities, provides strategic advice to the government on their development and manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community.

The Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is one of the world's leading laser facilities providing scientists from universities in the UK and Europe with an unparalleled range of state-of-the-art laser technology. For more information please visit www.stfc.rl.ac.uk

For more information please contact:
Prof Mike Dunne
Natalie Bealing