Dr. John Sethian Receives Fusion Power Associates' Leadership Award

9/13/2002 - 47-02r
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Dr. John D. Sethian, of the Laser Plasma Branch of the Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Plasma Physics Division, is the recipient of the Fusion Power Associates (FPA) annual Leadership Award. FPA is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the timely development of fusion energy. The FPA Leadership Awards have been presented annually since 1980 to individuals who have shown outstanding leadership qualities in accelerating the development of fusion.

According to the award citation, "Dr. John D. Sethian is selected in recognition of his leadership of the Electra laser program and especially his leadership in organizing and coordinating a systems approach to the National High Average Power Laser Program."

According to Dr. Sethian, "Fusion powers the sun and stars. It occurs when deuterium and tritium, two forms of hydrogen, are combined at high density and temperature. If fusion could be harnessed on earth, the power plant would have no chemical pollution, little or no long-term radioactive waste, and unlimited fuel. (Deuterium comes from seawater; tritium is created when neutrons from the fusion reaction interact with lithium, a plentiful element)."

Researchers in the Laser Plasma Branch are spearheading a promising approach to fusion: An array of intense lasers compresses and heats a small pellet of fuel to fusion ignition. The Branch designed and built Nike, the world's largest krypton fluoride (KrF) laser. Using codes that are benchmarked with experiments on Nike, a family of pellets has been designed that can produce enough energy for a power plant. These designs are based on one-dimensional computer simulations, and are now being evaluated with two and three-dimensional simulations using the Branch's state of the art parallel super computers.

Dr. Sethian is leading a national program to develop the science and technologies needed to advance this concept into a fusion power plant. The "High Average Power Laser Program" brings together 24 institutions -- national labs, universities and private industries. This integrated approach ensures Laser Fusion Energy will be developed as a coherent system.

"A laser for a fusion power plant must fire five times per second for several year's to meet stringent cost and efficiency requirements. The Electra program at NRL is developing the technologies for a KrF laser that can meet these requirements. A companion program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is developing the technologies for a diode pumped solid-state laser or DPPSL. The Electra facility was commissioned early in 2001," concluded Dr. Sethian.

Dr. Sethian received an AB in Physics from Princeton University in 1972, and a PhD in Applied Physics from Cornell University in 1976. He came to NRL in 1976.

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