The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have announced that America has just made history with a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion energy.
Nuclear scientists have achieved fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
The news is a major scientific breakthrough that has been decades in the making.
The achievement will pave the way for further advancements in national defense and the future of clean power.
On December 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone.
It is also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the energy used to power the experiment.
Many call this the Holy Grail of energy as, if perfected, it will deliver cheap, consistent, energy without harmful waste materials.
This historic, first-of-its-kind achievement will support NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and will provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy, which would be a game-changer.
“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
“We have had a theoretical understanding of fusion for over a century, but the journey from knowing to doing can be long and arduous. Today’s milestone shows what we can do with perseverance,” said Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the President’s Chief Advisor for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“Monday, December 5, 2022, was a historic day in science thanks to the incredible people at Livermore Lab and the National Ignition Facility. In making this breakthrough, they have opened a new chapter in NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program,” said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby.
“I would like to thank the members of Congress who have supported the National Ignition Facility because their belief in the promise of visionary science has been critical for our mission.
“Our team from around the DOE national laboratories and our international partners have shown us the power of collaboration.”
“The pursuit of fusion ignition in the laboratory is one of the most significant scientific challenges ever tackled by humanity, and achieving it is a triumph of science, engineering, and most of all, people,” LLNL Director Dr. Kim Budil said.
“Crossing this threshold is the vision that has driven 60 years of dedicated pursuit—a continual process of learning, building, expanding knowledge and capability, and then finding ways to overcome the new challenges that emerged.
“These are the problems that the U.S. national laboratories were created to solve.”
“This astonishing scientific advance puts us on the precipice of a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels but instead powered by new clean fusion energy,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.
“I commend Lawrence Livermore National Labs and its partners in our nation’s Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program, including the University of Rochester’s Lab for Laser Energetics in New York, for achieving this breakthrough.
“Making this future clean energy world a reality will require our physicists, innovative workers, and brightest minds at our DOE-funded institutions, including the Rochester Laser Lab, to double down on their cutting-edge work.
“That’s why I’m also proud to announce today that I’ve helped to secure the highest-ever authorization of over $624 million this year in the National Defense Authorization Act for the ICF program to build on this amazing breakthrough.”
“After more than a decade of scientific and technical innovation, I congratulate the team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the National Ignition Facility for their historic accomplishment,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
“This is an exciting step in fusion and everyone at Lawrence Livermore and NIF should be proud of this milestone achievement.”
“This is an historic, innovative achievement that builds on the contributions of generations of Livermore scientists,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Today, our nation stands on their collective shoulders.
“We still have a long way to go, but this is a critical step and I commend the U.S. Department of Energy and all who contributed toward this promising breakthrough, which could help fuel a brighter clean energy future for the United States and humanity.”
“This monumental scientific breakthrough is a milestone for the future of clean energy,” said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA).
“While there is more work ahead to harness the potential of fusion energy, I am proud that California scientists continue to lead the way in developing clean energy technologies.
“I congratulate the scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for their dedication to a clean energy future, and I am committed to ensuring they have all of the tools and funding they need to continue this important work.”
According to DOE:
LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output, demonstrating for the first time a most fundamental science basis for inertial fusion energy (IFE).
Many advanced science and technology developments are still needed to achieve simple, affordable IFE to power homes and businesses, and DOE is currently restarting a broad-based, coordinated IFE program in the United States. Combined with private-sector investment, there is a lot of momentum to drive rapid progress toward fusion commercialization.
Fusion is the process by which two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy.
In the 1960s, a group of pioneering scientists at LLNL hypothesized that lasers could be used to induce fusion in a laboratory setting.
Led by physicist John Nuckolls, who later served as LLNL director from 1988 to 1994, this revolutionary idea became inertial confinement fusion, kicking off more than 60 years of research and development in lasers, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation, and experimental design.
To pursue this concept, LLNL built a series of increasingly powerful laser systems, leading to the creation of NIF, the world’s largest and most energetic laser system. NIF—located at LLNL in Livermore, Calif.—is the size of a sports stadium and uses powerful laser beams to create temperatures and pressures like those in the cores of stars and giant planets, and inside exploding nuclear weapons.
Here’s the Department of Energy’s press release on the nuclear fusion breakthrough, an experiment that “surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output”. https://t.co/MdVcXprarv
— kottke.org (@kottke) December 13, 2022