Robert A. Krakowski Passes, Age 83

August 6, 2021

Fusion Veteran Robert A. (Bob) Krakowski passed away July 16, 2021 at the age of 83. He was a noted and prolific fusion scientist and engineer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where he specialized in analyzing the commercial challenges facing a large variety of fusion concepts.

He received his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering in from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 after receiving a BS in chemical engineering from Ohio State University. After spending several years working at the Euratom Center for Research in Ispra, Italy, in 1972, he joined the Los Alamos lab. At the time, the primary concept approach to fusion at Los Alamos was the toroidal theta pinch. It was one of the three primary fusion approaches being funded by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (the others being Stellarators/Tokamaks and Magnetic Mirrors).

The then-existing toroidal theta pinch fusion experiment at LANL was called Scyllac. Bob played a major role in the conceptual design study of a Reference Theta-Pinch Reactor (RTPR) [1]. He also was a contributor to the design of a next generation D-T fusion "breakeven" experiment, SFTR [2] which was to be built as a precurser to the reactor.

In this period, the tokamak was emerging as the dominant fusion approach and the toroidal theta-pinch experiments were not pursued further. However there were still a significant number of so-called "alternative concepts" that continued to be pursued at LANL and elsewhere at a relatively low level.

A magnetic fusion conceptual reactor design group, CTR-12, was formed with Bob as Group Leader. The group made reactor projections for a variety of concepts, including the Fast Liner, the Reversed-Field Pinch, the Field-Reversed Configuration, and the Z-pinch. The group also engaged with external groups to study the ELMO Bumpy Torus, the Modular-Coil Stellarator, the Spherical Tokamak, and other approaches, while also participating in the multi-institutional ARIES fusion reactor design team until the mid 1990s. He also participated in the 1978 "Science Court" [3] as an advocate of several Los Alamos lab concepts.

He became well-known as a champion for compact, high-power-density fusion power cores as a route to economically competitive electricity generation. He introduced the Mass Power Density [inverse specific net electrical power (kWe/tonne)] as a figure of merit for evaluating magnetic fusion concepts, noting that the mass of the fusion power core was a major contributor to the cost of electricity and hence needed to be a small as possible.

For his work he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Nuclear Society Fusion Energy Division in 1987.

He was a member of a major study group that prepared the 1989 ESECOM report [4] "Report of the Senior Committee on Environment, Safety, and Economic Aspects of Magnetic Fusion Energy" and summarized his thinking in Ref. [5].

Later in his career, he participated in international alternative energy research at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villingen, Switzerland.

Bob is survived by his son Nels and his daughters Christiana and Aliz and their families. The family suggests that donations in Bob's remembrance be sent to the Los Alamos Special Olympics, to the New Mexico Special Olympics or to the Las Cumbres Community Services. The family intends to host a Celebration of Life in Santa Fe in the Fall.

Bob's colleague Ron Miller, rmiller@decysive.com contributed to this FPN.

[1] R. A. Krakowski, F. L. Ribe, T. A. Coultas, A. J. Hatch and Contributors, "An Engineering Design Study of A Reference Theta-Pinch Reactor (RTPR)," joint Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory report LA-5336 and Argonne National Laboratory report ANL-8019 (March 1974).

[2] K. I. Thomassen, Compiler, "Conceptual Design Study of a Scyllac Fusion Test Reactor," Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory report LA-6024 (January 1976).

[3] "An Evaluation of Alternate Magnetic Fusion Concepts," U. S. Department of Energy report DOE/ET-0047 (May 1978).

[4] J. P. Holdren (Chair), D. H. Berwald, R. J. Bubnitz, J. G. Crocker, J. G. Delene, R. D. Endicott, M. S. Kazimi, R. A. Krakowski, B. G. Logan, and K. R. Schultz, "Report of the Senior Committee on Environment, Safety, and Economic Aspects of Magnetic Fusion Energy," Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory report UCRL-53766 (September 25, 1989).

[5] R. A. Krakowski, "Progress in Commercial Magnetic Fusion Energy Reactor Designs," Fusion Technology, 20 (September 1991) 121-143.