The first controlled fusion experiment in history

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on December 13, 2022 that fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been achieved – a major scientific breakthrough decades in the making. in creating and paving the way for advances in national defense and the future of clean energy.

On December 5, 2022, a team from LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone, also known as scientific energy equilibrium. This unique achievement will provide unprecedented opportunities to support NNSA’s supply management program and provide invaluable insight into the prospects for clean fusion energy, which would be a setback to efforts to achieve President Biden’s goals for a low-carbon economy.

“This is a milestone for the scientists and staff at the National Ignition Facility, who have dedicated their careers to the achievement of fusion ignition, and this milestone will undoubtedly lead to even more discoveries.”‘- said Jennifer M. Granholm, US Secretary of Energy. “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, such as providing clean energy to fight climate change and maintaining a nuclear deterrent without nuclear tests.

“We’ve 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 persistence– said Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Chief Advisor to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

(Photo Wikipedia – 2022)

Jennifer Mulhern Granholm (1959) is a Canadian-American lawyer, educator, author, political commentator, and politician who has served as the 16th Secretary of Energy of the United States since 2021

Monday, December 5, 2022 was a historic day in science thanks to the incredible people at Livermore Lab and the National Ignition Facility. With this breakthrough, they have opened a new chapter in NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program. I want 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 to our mission. Our team from all DOE national laboratories and our international partners have shown us the power of collaboration said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby.

“The pursuit of fusion ignition in the laboratory is one of the most important scientific challenges humanity has ever faced, and achieving it is a triumph for science, engineering and, above all, people. Crossing that threshold is the vision that has driven 60 years of dedicated pursuit – an ongoing process of learning, building, expanding knowledge and capacity, and then finding ways to overcome the new challenges that arose. These are the problems for which the US National Laboratories were created – said LLNL director Dr. Kim Budil.

Photo Amstelveen
(Photo LLNL – 2022)

The target chamber at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility, where 192 laser beams delivered more than 2 million joules of ultraviolet energy to a small fuel pellet to create fusion ignition on December 5, 2022

“These amazing scientific advances place us on the edge of a future that no longer depends on fossil fuels, but instead is powered by new, clean fusion energy.”‘-said Charles Schumer (NY), US Senate Majority Leader. “I commend Lawrence Livermore National Labs and its partners in the national Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program, including the University of Rochester’s Lab for Laser Energetics in New York, for achieving this breakthrough. For this future world of clean energy to to become a reality, our physicists, innovative staff, and brightest minds at our DOE-funded institutions, including the Rochester Laser Lab, must redouble their pioneering work, which is why I am also proud to announce today that I helped secure the highest authorization ever of more than $624 million to the ICF program this year in the National Defense Authorization Act 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 on their historic achievement. This is an exciting move in the merger and everyone at Lawrence Livermore and NIF can be proud of this milestone” – said US Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA).

“This is a historic, innovative achievement that builds on the contributions of generations of Livermore scientists. 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 it U.S. Department of Energy and all who contributed to this promising breakthrough, which can contribute to a brighter clean energy future for the United States and humanity – said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This monumental scientific breakthrough is a milestone for the future of clean energy. While there is still more work to be done to unlock the potential of fusion energy, I am proud that California scientists continue to be at the forefront of developing clean energy technologies .I congratulate the scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on their commitment to a clean energy future, and I will make sure they receive all the resources and funding they need to continue this important work – said US Senator Alex Padilla (CA).

“This is a very big deal. We can celebrate a new performance record at the National Ignition Facility. This latest achievement is particularly noteworthy because NIF used a smaller spherically symmetric target than in the August 2021 experiment. This major advance demonstrates the future possibilities of commercialization of fusion power. Congress and the government must fully fund and properly implement the fusion research provisions of the recent CHIPS and Science Act, and probably more. During World War II, we created the Manhattan Project for a timely result. The challenges facing the world today , is even bigger than it was then. We need to redouble and accelerate research to find new paths to the clean, limitless energy that fusion promises – said US Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19).

Fusion is the process of combining two light nuclei into a heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. In the 1960s, a group of pioneering scientists at LLNL proposed that lasers could be used to achieve fusion in a laboratory setting. Led by physicist John Nuckolls, who later served as director of LLNL from 1988 to 1994, this revolutionary idea became inertial confinement fusion, bringing together more than 60 years of research and development in lasers, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation, and experimental design started. Read more: on LLNL’s website

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