THE Department of Energy invests in research and development for a diverse set of energy technologies to meet the nation's-and the world's-needs for environmentally benign, economic, and secure energy supplies. These investments rely on a broad range of scientific and technical expertise for their successful fruition. That expertise is being provided by, among others, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.|
The system of energy supply, generation, delivery, and utilization is extremely complex. Energy's development and use affect--and are also constrained by--domestic and international politics, economics, the environment, safety, and security. Each energy choice is a tradeoff in efficiency and these other external elements. Successful marketplace penetration by energy systems is influenced by many factors, including expediency, education, economics, government regulations, infrastructure availability, and operations and maintenance characteristics.
The complexity of energy issues requires us to have a broad point of view about them. We cannot hope to answer energy problems with any single technology, no matter how innovative. Rather, we must look at the problem from a systems perspective and develop an integrated viewpoint that encompasses all of energy's interrelationships.
A systems perspective and multidisciplinary research and development are Livermore's approach. We take advantage of the Laboratory's extensive multidisciplinary capabilities, from advanced computations to materials science to environmental science, to pursue advances. Our unique facilities support programs to meet national energy needs, and through cross-communication of activities among Laboratory projects, we are able to see the bigger picture of our mutual goals and realize opportunities for synergism. Livermore provides an ideal community for scientific cooperation--among research programs within the Laboratory and with other labs, universities, and industry.
As the article beginning on p. 4 indicates, we are developing a range of significant technologies that contribute to the U.S. energy portfolio. Some of this work leads to technologies or energy resources that are more economical and therefore more attractive to the marketplace. Other work mitigates or reduces the impact of energy development on the environment. Our focus is on meeting national energy needs, while keeping a watchful eye on the implications and ramifications of energy production and use on a global scale. Our work in the broad arena of carbon management addresses the global issue of possible climate change as a result of fossil fuel use. Efforts both domestically and internationally address operational, security, and nonproliferation issues associated with continued nuclear energy development and use.
At this national laboratory, we undertake work in areas that are high-risk or long-range and thus are beyond the immediate scope of industry. In areas where we have special capabilities, we also do research that can have near-term impact. Such work includes developing fuel cells, energy-efficient manufacturing processes, and the disposal of radioactive waste. For longer-term needs, we are pursuing research to develop next-generation nuclear fission reactors. Looking still further ahead, we are developing alternative concepts for fusion energy, a new magnetic levitation concept, and ways to sequester the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions.
Energy may be plentiful and cheap now, but that situation could change quickly over coming decades because of political or economic developments elsewhere in the world. The lead time for the development and successful penetration of new technologies into the marketplace can be so long as to require significant investment many years before the need becomes immediate. Thus, the balanced energy R&D portfolio requires funding now in order to develop new technologies and resources for the long term. Livermore is making meaningful contributions in energy research and development to ensure that these technologies will be available to meet this nation's energy needs in the next century.