Scientists at the US National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction with a net energy gain, it was announced Tuesday.
“Last week, scientists. . .achieved fusion ignition, and that is creating more energy from fusion reactions than the energy used to start the process. It’s the first time it has ever been done in a laboratory anywhere in the world,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in making the official announcement.
“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery.
“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,” she said.
Producing a net energy gain from nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun and the stars — has been the Holy Grail of nuclear scientists since the 1950s.
“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,” NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby said. “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.”
Thus far, the scientists were able to produce 20 to 30 percent more energy than was expended in producing the fusion reaction.
If they build on that success and produce exponentially more – at least 100 times that amount – the scientists will create a practical, effective, and clean way to produce a form of energy that will, eventually, reduce and perhaps even eliminate the need for fossil fuel such as oil.
“We have had a theoretical understanding of fusion for over a century, but the journey from knowing to doing can be long and arduous,” said Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the President’s chief adviser for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“Today’s milestone shows what we can do with perseverance.”