WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the achievement of fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)–a major scientific breakthrough decades in the making that will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power.
Using the same very potent reaction that creates energy in the sun’s core, the world may be one step closer to producing clean energy. Sources with knowledge of the recent experiment, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are said to have produced the first-ever net energy gain in a nuclear fusion process.
If the reports are accurate, they mark an important scientific breakthrough. Scientists have been pondering the possibility of nuclear fusion, which occurs when two hydrogen atoms fuse to form a single helium atom and release a blast of energy, for decades. Commercial energy generated from this kind of controlled reaction may one day offer a virtually infinite source of clean energy, but that day is still a long way off.
A $3.5 billion laser complex called the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is where the accomplishment was made. The NIF has been unable to produce a fusion reaction that produces more energy than it uses for more than ten years.
But on December 5, in the middle of night, that changed. At one in the morning local time, scientists zapped a small hydrogen fuel pellet with laser beams. The energy from the lasers was 2.05 megajoules, and the energy from the pellet was about 3.15 megajoules.
It’s a significant accomplishment that the fusion research community has been working for more than 50 years. Mark Herrmann, who oversees the NIF program at Livermore said, “In our laboratory we’ve been working on this for almost 16 years.” “This is an incredible team accomplishment.” Fans are very very excited.
“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. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting our world-class scientists–like the team at NIF–whose work will help us solve humanity’s most complex and pressing problems, like providing clean power to combat climate change and maintaining a nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing.”
Though many years still away, according to researchers, clean, safe power without greenhouse gas emissions could one day be produced using fusion energy.
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