The US Department of Energy is expected to announce Tuesday that scientists have for the first time successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain, according to the Financial Times and The Washington Post.
The result of the experiment would be a massive step in a decadeslong quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers have for decades attempted to recreate nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun.
A UK fusion scientist told CNN that the result of the US breakthrough is promising, but also shows more work needs to happen to make fusion able to generate electricity on a commercial scale.
“They have worked on the design and the makeup of the target and the shape of the energy pulse to get much better results,” Tony Roulstone, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, told CNN.
“The opposing argument is that this result is miles away from actual energy gain required for the production of electricity. Therefore, we can say (it) is a success of the science but a long way from providing useful energy.”
According to the New York Times, the objective of the research at LLNL is to develop a way to see if existing hydrogen bombs are still functional without actually blowing them up. It was never to develop a fusion power source.
Family, old friends contributed to the earlier Shiva fusion research project, replaced by others since… Glad to see further progress, a long road ahead, but it sure beat the crap outta the old ‘Cold Fusion’ garbage…
I might have worded it differently, but the National Ignition Facility is involved with the National Nuclear Security Administration in studying the fusion reactions that occur in most nuclear weapons. You may not like it, but that is a major reason why the NIF was built.
From the link:
NIF is the world’s largest and most energetic laser, designed to allow unprecedented experimental access to the physics of nuclear weapons and help maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent without further underground testing. This knowledge helps ensure the current and future nuclear stockpile is safe, secure and effective, and allows scientists to better understand the behavior of matter throughout the universe.
There is also research more aimed at the peaceful applications of fusion energy for power production, although I think it very unlikely anything like the NIF could be used to provide electricity on a constant basis. Each shot of the NIF is a one-off, then they need to reload a new target and prepare for another shot. A power plant needs a constant source of energy.
The government official, who spoke anonymously to discuss results that are not yet public, said that the fusion experiment at NIF achieved what is known as ignition, where the fusion energy generated equals the laser energy that started the reaction. Ignition is also called energy gain of one.
A scientist familiar with the results who spoke anonymously for the same reason also confirmed that NIF has achieved ignition.
Such a development would improve the ability of the United States to maintain its nuclear weapons without nuclear testing and could set the stage for future progress that could one day lead to the use of laser fusion as a source of carbon-free energy…
The main purpose of NIF, built at a cost of $3.5 billion, is to conduct experiments that help the United States maintain its nuclear weapons without nuclear test explosions. Proponents also said it could advance fusion research that could lead to viable commercial power plants…[end quote]
Note that the MAIN PURPOSE is to conduct experiments that help the United States maintain its nuclear weapons without nuclear test explosions.
Of course, “proponents” – Rah, Rah! – have always hoped that fusion could eventually be commercialized for clean power generation. But that wasn’t the purpose of the LLNL experiment, just wishful thinking by “proponents.” Lots of hype.
Assuming our society can even contain the energy that fusion provides, it would cause worldwide turmoil between countries. And then the fusion energy that is known will go boom. Not even the Sun contains all of the energy it harnesses, with outbursts of solar flares and storms. To produce workable fusion is so far far away, as opposed to five seconds of scientific gloating.
One of my old friends that worked at Livermore Labs was one of, possibly the main, Librarian. He had access to every major database on our globe I think, but also some serious NDAs, Clearances, so could never directly answer many of my questions, what they were working on, etc. But at times, over cocktails, we’d get talking and I could come in at different angles and get a glimpse of what some of the research was headed for. Super fellow, he, in his later years, was sidelined by Parkinson’s, and left us… So I know there are many, many things I don’t know, or need to know going on there, so it was interesting to see how our nukes were tied in… Not a lot to do with fusion research that is the current focus of interest…
Thanks for the links!
Prior to this breakthrough, they have achieved fusion, but there was no positive result, less energy created for the energy pumped in… Shiva, Tokomak, were early attempts… A local lab (OCLI) surface coated the massive Shiva mirrors, they could have no flaws, a large ~10x16x4 inch block, any flaw and the laser exploded it, halted the attempt… Interesting times, interesting scientists, engineers…
The thing about nuclear fusion power generation is that this is not a science problem, it is an engineering problem. We understand the science. We know how 4 H’s fuse into an He and how much energy is released. The problem is that is a really, really hard problem to engineer a mini-sun here on Earth. Did not read Zeihan’s article but I agree on the title, in that commercial large scale fusion is still decades away. But I’m glad they are still trying.