National Ignition Facility Exceeds Break Even Nuclear Fusion

Essay by Eric Worrall

An American first on a par with the historical significance of the moon landing – scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have exceeded fusion break even.

National Ignition Facility achieves fusion ignition

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. On Dec. 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility(NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone, also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. This first-of-its-kind feat will provide unprecedented capability to support NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and will provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy, which would be a game-changer for efforts to achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy.

“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.”

“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 adviser 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,” 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.”

“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,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (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 U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (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. 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,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This monumental scientific breakthrough is a milestone for the future of clean energy,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (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.”

“This is a very big deal. We can celebrate another performance record by the National Ignition Facility. This latest achievement is particularly remarkable because NIF used a less spherically symmetrical target than in the August 2021 experiment,” said U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19). “This significant advancement showcases the future possibilities for the commercialization of fusion energy. Congress and the Administration need to fully fund and properly implement the fusion research provisions in the recent CHIPS and Science Act and likely more. During World War II, we crafted the Manhattan Project for a timely result. The challenges facing the world today are even greater than at that time. We must double down and accelerate the research to explore new pathways for the clean, limitless energy that fusion promises.”

“I am thrilled that NIF — the United States’ most cutting-edge nuclear research facility — has achieved fusion ignition, potentially providing for a new clean and sustainable energy source in the future. This breakthrough will ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile, open new frontiers in science, and enable progress toward new ways to power our homes and offices in future decades,” said U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15). “I commend the scientists and researchers for their hard work and dedication that led to this monumental scientific achievement, and I will continue to push for robust funding for NIF to support advancements in fusion research.”

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, California — 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.

Achieving ignition was made possible by dedication from LLNL employees as well as countless collaborators at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Nevada National Security Site; General Atomics; academic institutions, including the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University; international partners, including the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission; and stakeholders at DOE and NNSA and in Congress.


A word of caution – there is a long way to go, between a lab demonstration of energy production, and a viable commercial nuclear fusion reactor. The break even claim only applies to the amount of energy pumped into the fusion target, vs the amount emitted, not the total energy expended to perform the experiment. Vastly greater amounts of energy were used to generate the final 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy which struck the target, to produce 3.15MJ of fusion energy. And that 3.15MJ of fusion energy was only enough to keep a 2KW plug in home heater running for 25 minutes.

To turn this into a fusion generator, the energy emitted by the target would need to be vastly scaled up, and the process would have to fire multiple times per minute, likely multiple times per second, rather than a single shot after hours or days of preparation.

Nevertheless this milestone is critically important – it provides a focal point of motivation, to solve the remaining problems.

And there are plenty of potential paths forward. Fusion processes can potentially initiate much larger fusion processes, as the Soviet Union proved when they set off the largest atomic bomb ever detonated – maybe the key breakthrough to commercialising this milestone will be a multi-stage fusion target, which releases vastly greater amounts of energy than were used to ignite the initial fusion reaction. Or there might be breakthroughs in ultraviolet laser technology.

The point is, now scientists have even more motivation to push forward – they know beyond doubt that their end goal is achievable.

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Steve Case
December 13, 2022 10:21 pm

 “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…”

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 13, 2022 10:30 pm

The climate debate would be relegated back where it belongs, the halls trash cans of academia.

You’re welcome

Reply to  Redge
December 14, 2022 3:46 pm

Not really. Climate change is not about climate change, but about redistribution of middle-class wealth. There would still be reparations for late twentieth century storms, and new storms as they occur in the Maldives, Africa, South America.

They may change the name. The faces will remain the same until they age out.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ex-KaliforniaKook
Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 13, 2022 10:43 pm

Not to darken your bright side Eric but, there’s affordable nuclear fission available and the woke scolds are gluing themselves to fossil fuel products to stop any new plants from being built and to shut down the functioning ones. As soon as some country wants to build a practical fusion reactor, the mouth warriors are going to come out like Montezuma’s revenge to try to stop it. Scott Adams put it succinctly when he declared, “people are irrational.”

Rich Davis
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 3:25 am

Sad to see you so naive Eric.

The gap between an incredibly expensive science project and a commercially-viable power plant is so immense, that it is more a case of proving that the end goal is NOT achievable than that success is inevitable. Certainly the preponderance of evidence argues that the costs will always very far exceed the costs of any currently available commercial power generation technology.

A few things that this does do:

1) Assures another generation of fusion researchers a lifetime career at the government grant trough.

2) Gives the low-information voters a vague sense that the Dementia Joe Administration is “doing something about the problem” of affordable “clean” energy.

3) Sets the stage for subsequently saying that although this is going to take longer than we hoped, we just need to sacrifice a bit now (freeze to death in the dark) while we build the paradise to come.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 14, 2022 3:51 am

“Certainly the preponderance of evidence argues that the costs will always very far exceed the costs of any currently available commercial power generation technology.”

The way to pay for it is to NOT waste another penny on wind and solar.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 15, 2022 4:24 pm

Ok, deal.

Reply to  Rich Davis
December 14, 2022 7:10 am

Meh. Gene editing was once considered impossible; yet within my lifetime it has gone from impossible to “can do it in a backyard shed” using CRISPR kits. Also in my lifetime, I’ve seen the introduction of the Motorola bag phones with their titanic batteries and very little actual talk time to the modern marvel of the battery in my iPhone. Space travel was once something that required government-level funding; now YouTube abounds with videos of hobbyists putting all manner of things above the atmosphere and dropping them. My Apple Watch has vastly more computing power than the Cray-1 at a tiny fraction of the price. When DJI released their Inspire-1 drone, it was lightyears ahead of anything else on the market (and commanded a pretty fearsome price). Within weeks people started cloning it, and within a few months DIY Inspire-1 copies were flying and accomplishing mostly everything the Inspire-1 did.

Often, the hardest part is proving that a thing can be done. Accomplish that, and now clever people can come up with clever ways to accomplish that thing cheaply.

Rich Davis
Reply to  neil
December 15, 2022 4:16 pm

Nobody has doubted that atoms can be fused. After all we’ve had thermonuclear bombs for around 70 years. Fusion has certainly been achieved in hundreds of prior experiments for brief moments, and with ever-increasing waste of money, for marginally longer periods. If we wanted to build a power plant based on collecting the heat from a series of underground thermonuclear explosions, who could doubt that such an approach is possible? (Not practical or competitive with alternative sources of course).

The issue is whether a power plant can ever be built that will produce more wealth than it destroys over the course of its useful lifetime while accounting for the time value of money.

An essential factor in that assessment is the cost of supplying energy by the least-costly alternative approach, which essentially determines the market price of the commodity that the proposed fusion power plant is going to produce, namely electricity.

If you’re planning to spend billions of dollars on a physical plant that will be quickly degraded and need to be repaired continuously, then we’re not in the realm of unlimited & cheap. We’re talking exorbitant and impractical.

Reply to  Rich Davis
December 16, 2022 9:11 am

Narrative boundary enforcement the: Right Kind!. I have no use for the Left or the Right kind. Coal was always cheaper than Nuke right if you count the cost the country spent on the Manhattan project. Two and three tier natural gas generation maybe cheaper than coal. With a truly viable battery, solar maybe cheaper yet if you live in Arizona. NASA landed a guy on the moon with the use of solar panels….Apollo was a total waste of money and we are getting ready to do it again…right! Look only 3% of the people who voted in midterms considered climate change an important issue. Fusion R&D will not be factor in any election. The research has been underway for 48 years around the globe. By your definition Russia, China, EU is wasting money on Fusion research. I hope my grandkids don’t have to buy electricity from China generated by their Fusion generators and distributed by a global SC cable grid. LOL

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 5:12 am

Breakthroughs depend on lucky accidents and people who correctly understand the result.

Institutional science is set up to prevent breakthroughs.

When I think of people working in their garages, the first names that spring to mind are Hewlett, Packard, and Wozniak. All of whom built their first equipment in their garages. What I didn’t know until just now is that Wozniak worked for Hewlett Packard and Hewlett Packard totally did not see the need for personal computers. link Sometimes the irony bites real hard. 🙂

Reply to  commieBob
December 14, 2022 6:12 am

Sorry, I didn’t connect the dots. Some folks won’t know that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started out building their first product, an audio signal generator, in a garage.

Pat Frank
Reply to  commieBob
December 14, 2022 6:49 am

Likewise Lee deForest and the vacuum tube triode, making broadcast radio possible.

Reply to  Pat Frank
December 14, 2022 7:51 am


Likewise RE: useful stuff from a garage.
The most employed missile in combat, the Sidewinder, was being cancelled but a few engineers and scientists kept working on off-duty time to perfect the thing in the mid-fifties. Not exactly a garage, as they had the use of govrnment test gear, recorders and such.
10 years later, a similar effort by a handful of engineers in an Air Force Armament test and development shop where I live developed the laser-guided bombs that produced such great videos in Desert Storm. Rumor at the Lab is the guidance electronic breadboard was literally a home garage effort.
Then, in the early 90’s, a similar group from the same shop repeated the process to produce the GPS-guided bombs, and the test versions used modified civilian GPS systems.
So I would not rule out a “breakthrough” on the “practical” side for some fusion application that actually works.
The downside of fusion versus fission for a sustainable process is that very little energy is required to start the fission production of energy. The reactors start producing heat by simply moving the control rods. The bombs use only a tiny amount of conventional explosives and are very, very small.

Gums sends…

Reply to  Gums
December 14, 2022 8:51 pm

My understanding was that the military created the GPS satellites in order to guide bombs. It was only after the Iron Curtain came down, that the military authorized a civilian, downgraded, version of GPS.

Reply to  MarkW
December 15, 2022 8:02 am


Not so, Mark, about guiding bombs……
GPS was primarily intended for and still is used for very precise navigation. Have been arouind it since late 70’s. And civilian use was planned from the beginning using “coarse acquisition”, which got you within a few hundred feet or less, and then clever civilian companies showed their stuff.

When they briefed us in 1978 or so, the spec was for 3-D positional accuracy within 15 meters using 4 satellites, and 2-D with 3 sats. Then, chips and algorithms and…. got better and better. Original system protocol had “coarse” accuracy for civilian use and then the “p-code” for military. By mid 90’s the commercial sftwe and hdwe folks got so good that without using any “codes”, your handheld Magellan got you within 10 yards! And military used “selectable availability” to get real good accuracy – they tinkered with the clock and super accurate clocks are the key for GPS and some other stuff we can’t describe here. SA resulted in your displayed position moving about, even if you were stationary.

By late 90’s, the military abandoned SA and such, but still has the ability to mess around with the system to deny great accuracy during wartime and so forth.

Working with the system back in late 90’s, we could get position within a centimeter or so for stationary receivers, and surveying/mapping folks glommed onto it. Moving receivers are more complicated, but there are “ways and means” to still get within 3 or 4 meters of a target using a simple bomb with a smart guidance box and GPS.

Gums sends…

Last edited 3 months ago by Gums
Joe Crawford
Reply to  commieBob
December 14, 2022 12:25 pm

The guy that designed the IBM PC had the same trouble as Wazniak in selling his design to IBM management. Initially management just didn’t think there would be a market for it even though he already had it designed and working.

B Zipperer
Reply to  Joe Crawford
December 14, 2022 2:45 pm

And IBM management refused to spend the money to make its own proprietory parts and told him to just use off-the-shelf, publically available stuff. Nor did they want to pony up for an operating system. Thus they licensed one [DOS, from some college kid named Gates, which is another funny story]
Thus anyone could build their own PC.

The WSJ covered the fusion story today and reminded everyone:
1) it took >200 MJ of energy to power the 2 MJ laser [ie, its ~ 1% efficient] to release the 3 MJ of fusion energy
2) to run contiuously it would need to fire > 10 times per sec
3) commercialization is still decades away.
But it is progress, but in software terms it’s “vaporware”

Reply to  B Zipperer
December 15, 2022 12:45 pm

Gates didn’t invent DOS. He bought it from the Seattle Computer Products, whose employee, Tim Paterson, invented it. The full story is more complicated, but the point of my comment is that Bill Gates, like Henry Ford before him, never invented anything.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  JakeJ
December 17, 2022 9:37 am

Gates was quite famous for ‘acquiring’ the technology :<)

Steve Case
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 13, 2022 10:47 pm

”Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
Paul Ehrlich

Rich Davis
Reply to  Steve Case
December 14, 2022 3:40 am

Ergo, waste billions on impossible fusion and do everything possible to drive up the cost of fission.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 15, 2022 4:21 pm

Let me speak more precisely. “Impossibly expensive” not technically impossible.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Steve Case
December 14, 2022 6:11 am

If I recall that moron got his Economics PHD from MIT and I would bet he knows more about fusion than he does about Economics. I would also bet that he knows absolutely nothing about Fusion.
You will learn exponentially more about economics by picking up any book written by Thomas Sowell than anything said or written by the propagandists Paul Ehrlich.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bill Powers
Reply to  Bill Powers
December 14, 2022 8:55 pm

Any book by Ehrlich is like negative information.
You know less when you are done reading, then you did before.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 13, 2022 11:23 pm

Fusion will be more expensive than coal or natural gas power, even if the plant cost the same – which it most certainly won’t, lasers cost more than gas turbines – tritium at $30,000 a gram precludes any fusion utopia in the next few decades, though laser enertial fusion might have more of a chance at straight deuterium fusion, or some variation with lithium or boron, than the tokamaks. And I guess there’s the Moon and it’s store of helium3

Dave Andrews
Reply to  PCman999
December 14, 2022 7:57 am

So a fight between EVs and fusion reactors for lithium – should be interesting. 🙂

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Dave Andrews
December 14, 2022 9:44 am

Not a fight. It’s fricking lasers, man.

Luke B
Reply to  PCman999
December 14, 2022 10:21 am

If there were a desire to make or collect it, its supply would rise, so I expect that its price would fall at some point. (Even though it would probably be a “challenging” commodity to handle.)

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 13, 2022 11:23 pm

Still 50 years in the future it seems.

abolition man
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 14, 2022 12:02 am

Not if Commiefornia destroys it’s electrical grid with endless supplies of Phantom Energy!
REAL scientific research, like real industry, requires reliable energy sources; and the woketards of the Fool’s Golden State are well into the process of ridding themselves of all such! Still no sanity visible on the horizon there!

Last edited 3 months ago by abolition man
Rich Davis
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 14, 2022 3:41 am

Always has been, always will be

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 14, 2022 8:01 am

Yep. They needed 1000 times more energy than the energy released to make the experiment work. Lot of work still to be done.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 6:18 am

Remember, having cheap and unlimited power is like giving an idiot child a machine gun, according to Paul Erhlich. I really think that sort of Luddite attitude rules the Greens.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 8:42 pm

If they lost climate change, they would just invent something else to badger us about.
Controlling CO2 was never the goal, controlling us was.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 15, 2022 6:56 pm

French greens are on the record opposing getting energy with tokamaks under the hypothesis they could work, mostly because of radioactive by products.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 16, 2022 8:50 am

Thanks for the timely post. There are many reasons why radical anti-anthropomorphic environmentalism might not return to the fringes but their main rallying point would be moot. Energy inputs either work and empower people economically or they don’t. Everything else is narrative management. Same goes for any major advancements in energy tech. Until then, the rallying cry will be carbon. The global battle ground will be the hydrocarbon fuel markets and the minds/wallets of consumers across the globe.

The radical environmental political movement related to global warming/climate change trigger tons of research, some useful some of it horrible. Pandemic research response planning by radical environmentalists should give us all pause. Unfortunately, Rad-Enviro research diverted resources away from real problems: Tornado warning systems, Earthquake prediction, Water use in dry lands, Fire prevention in historic fire prone regions, greater understanding of unknown/known factors involved in magnifying severe weather and precipitating meteotsunamis….etc.

John DeFayette
Reply to  Steve Case
December 14, 2022 3:52 am

Just like the Constitution instructs them to do. Right there in Article…ummm……

December 13, 2022 10:45 pm

We have ignition… Trillions to reach essentially flatline. We have a Green blight with intermittent/unreliable/renewable energy. We have fission less enrichment less waste, fuel cycles that are still politically incongruent in this post-cold war era.

Reply to  n.n
December 13, 2022 11:54 pm

This ‘ignition’ is no where near flatline – I am assuming you mean break even, energy in vs out. They produced 3.15MJ but it takes 477MJ just to charge the capacitors for the lasers, nevermind the electricity for the building and computers, etc.

They are crowing about the return on the 2MJ of UV laser energy that reached the holhraum (German for cavity – apparently Armin Zola is still running research for the US) that holds the way too small DT pellet.

They got a big funding allocation out of it so the science welfare/social assistance payments will continue.

Stephen Wilde
December 13, 2022 10:59 pm

My concern is not whether one can get more out than is fired at the target(that is easily enough done with any other explosive) but rather the controlling and directing the product of the reaction to convert it to usable power.
There are no materials capable of containing it for long so magnetic fields are proposed.
The real problem then is that the energy required to constrain and direct via magnetic fields will always have to exceed the amount of energy being constrained or directed which makes the whole process inevitably incapable of producing a usable net surplus.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 14, 2022 12:26 am

You say ‘magnetic’ but, what comes out of a fusion reactor is Neutrons and they care not one jot about magnetics (or electrostatics either)
You mention ‘materials’
Exactly again: because no matter what you make your reactor out of, the neutrons will change it into something else – and when said and done, THAT is exactly what the fusion reactor is
A fusion reactor is using neutrons to turn one substance into another.

Anyway, Auntie B has come rushing in with the news – and oversimplifying soooo much as to make it = Garbage. (Just like every explanation of the GHGE there is out there)
Here’s their picture: hopefully it shows up
comment image.webp

Otherwise here

The Problem there is that The Neutron and The Energy are one and the same. The Neutron is carrying the Energy, they are not separate as shown

That is A Very Big Problem for this type of fusion for 3 reasons:

Fast moving neutrons are horrible horrible things, bullets basicallyNeutrons are extremely NOT = Neutral. They are desperately radioactive and disintegrate into an Alpha and a Beta with a half life of 12 minutes (I can never figure how or why, but they do)Neutrons have no charge and so it is impossible to steer these things to where you want themSo put all that lot together and a fusion reactor, as proposed, will set about turning itself into a grotesque pile of extremely radioactive dust & mush from the instant you switch it on – and No Way of you stopping it from doing so

Unless you are = A Star.
In which case you surround the ‘actual reaction place’ with a few trillion zillion squigga gigga jillion googa gaga tonnes of Hydrogen and so contain the beast – while the radioactive decay of the neutrons makes new stuff that will fall into the reaction place and burn.
While not melting your house or causing the kids to glow in the dark.
Hmmm, there’s a funny thing. I thought Global Warming was gonna do that.
Stiiiiillllll waiting, and counting.

But it’s OK, Boris and his successors are up to speed and are gonna make the Hydrogen with Boris’ Saudi Arabia of Windmills.
Oh. joy of joys, we are saved!

Last edited 3 months ago by Peta of Newark
Curious George
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 14, 2022 7:38 am

Technically, a minor success, good for Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, famous for her surprise that Biden’s depletion of Strategic Oil Reserve was only a three day consumption of oil. She is a lawyer, and will always be.

Timo- Not That One
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 14, 2022 9:26 am

Sadly, this technology, that won’t work, is now going to be used by the left to get fossil fuel banned now. That’s the purpose of this announcement.
Judy and Joe six-pack, will now think that these clean energy stations are going to replace oil and coal in 5 years, so we can go ahead with the fossil fuel bans.
In 5 or so years there will be a newly minted Republican President who they can blame for the catastrophe.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 14, 2022 2:18 pm

They are desperately radioactive and disintegrate into an Alpha and a Beta with a half life of 12 minutes

Neutrons decay into a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino of some flavor or another. I think the idea was to blanket the reactor with something for the neutrons to heat up, then go the usual thermal steam generation route. That’s likely to generate a lot more unwanted radioactive isotopes than electricity.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 14, 2022 5:12 am

Not just the cost – money or energy – of the magnetic field containment but also the stability. True grid scale power plants need to be producing gigawatts, not the 25 MJ = >7 kilowatts in the test case.
The real question is whether the process is even producing net positive EROEI – since that’s something which people constantly harp about. How much energy to refine the tritium? To manufacture the magnets, the overall structure, the lasers? To transport materials?
Supposedly fission nuclear plants repay their energy used in construction in 2 weeks; I’d bet the above example would require 100s of years to repay the energy used in its construction.
Lastly: I note that fission energy – the problem has never been net energy production; the problem with fission is controlling the fission. So this breakthrough has brought us to December 1942?

Reply to  c1ue
December 14, 2022 9:40 am

Thanks, Clue.
Going back to those heady days in the early 40’s, we should recall that Groves was akin to Elon as he was an engineer as well as a manager. He got the Manhattan Project under control and did something nobody in the academic world would be able to do, even to this day, as we see with the fusion effort. You know, another 10 years, 20 years, and on and on.
Somehow we need another Groves and a super salesman to “re-fission” our energy production.

Gums sends…

Alexy Scherbakoff
December 13, 2022 11:05 pm

Struck the match but can’t get the fire started.

Stephen Wilde
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
December 13, 2022 11:37 pm

It is worse than that.
It is akin to trying to use a match to put a fire out.
Fusion involves forcing particles together whereas fission involves breaking them apart.
Adding energy from a match will always encourage combustible materials to break the bonds that constrain their constituent particles.
Adding more energy from a match will never force those combustible materials to increase their molecular or atomic density.
To do that there has to be a force of compression greater than the repulsive forces between the constituent particles. Upon achieving success in compression you inevitably lose some of the input in maintaining that compression so you can never get a net surplus.
Something to do with the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Stephen Wilde
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 13, 2022 11:56 pm

When using a containment vessel one is effectively using the energy stored between the constituent particles of the vessel to supplement the energy used to effect compression of the contents. In the case of fusion products they will always degrade the molecular structure of the containment vessel so that there is no material on earth that can be used.
Thus one is forced to try and use magnetic fields which involve trying to get a lesser amount of energy to constrain and control a greater amount of energy without the help of any supplement from a containment vessel.
I don’t see how that could ever work.
The magnetic fields need energy to be added constantly to maintain compression on the contents and that energy added can never be less than the energy within the contents.
Thus no net surplus however one cuts it.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 16, 2022 4:22 pm

The issue with magnetic containment isn’t so much the energy needed to generate the magnetic fields, so much as the magnetic fields are highly vulnerable to “modification” by either magnetic particles created in the fusion process or by the magnets themselves getting damaged by various radiation outputs from fusion.
The particles cause instability in the field strengths; the radiation weakens the electromagnetic properties/capabilities of the magnets. This is a very serious physics related issue – which is why fusion is always 10 years down the road: the assumption is that some magical solution will be found to address this.
That’s probably the main reason why this effort is using lasers to create fusion from an otherwise well below subcritical temperature and mass. The problem is: such an approach seems to me, at first glance, to make it even harder to scale up. It is like building an orbital rocket by demonstrating success using hobby rocket engines: not the least bit clear that the real engineering issues that need to be solved, are going to be addressed by the hobby rocket tests.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 14, 2022 4:53 am

unfortunately, Einstein realised that the theory of thermodt=ynamics, like laws of mtion before, do not work proerly in nuclear physics.

December 13, 2022 11:33 pm

Ok, so 2MJ of laser energy produced 3.15MJ from fusion – which is less than the 3.6MJ in a kWh (about 5¢ worth of electricity back in the days before green stupidity took over).

Unfortunately it takes almost 500MJ to charge the capacitors for the single shot.

At one time they had a goal of being able to do 700 shots A YEAR but its unknown if they reached that level yet.

This facility has nothing to do with a possible future commercial plant. It’s a lab tool, like comparing the flint/sparker used to light a bunsen burner in a high school lab with a CC gas turbine.

Notice I said the sparker not the actual Bunsen burner.

Reply to  PCman999
December 13, 2022 11:58 pm

Should be ” it’s unknown…” not its. Page wouldn’t let me edit.

Curious George
Reply to  PCman999
December 14, 2022 7:43 am

Let’s say we somehow achieve a sustainable fusion. How do we extract that energy? A steam engine?

Matthew Bergin
Reply to  Curious George
December 14, 2022 10:31 am

A very good but usually unstated point. 🤔

Dodgy Geezer
December 14, 2022 12:12 am

I thought that Tokamak designs had already passed this milestone of generating more energy than had gone in – for a short period of time, of course….

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
December 15, 2022 7:16 pm

No they need high temp plasma, we can’t efficiently make those. Plus all the electric input for the magnets. ITER will be 300 MW of electric input (and no electric output ever).
It’s a big joke.

December 14, 2022 12:15 am

re: “The break even claim only applies to the amount of energy pumped into the fusion target, vs the amount emitted, not the total energy expended to perform the experiment.“:

I think this experiment was a bit more significant than that. In Dec 2021, sciencealert reported on a previous Lawrence Livermore experiment: “The goal is to achieve ignition – a point at which the energy generated by the fusion process exceeds the total energy input.
The experiment, conducted on 8 August, fell just short [1.3 megajoules] of that mark; the input from the lasers was 1.9 megajoules.“.

So, in 16 months, they have gone from just failing to achieve ‘ignition’ to succeeding. In Aug 2021, Eric Worrall at WUWT pointed outThe heat produced by a nuclear fusion reaction is related to the volume of the plasma, while the heat lost is related to the surface area. Simple geometry dictates that if you make the plasma volume really large, the heat generated by such a large volume of fusing plasma is more likely to overcome surface losses, leading to a self sustaining fusion reaction.“, and that ITER in France is a lot bigger than Lawrence Livermore.

Although there is still a long way to go, there is real and exciting progress, and it is in the west, not yet in China, which to my mind is quite comforting.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 2:54 am

Oxford Tokamak, a privately funded fusion project was predicting connecting a reactor to the grid by 2030. As far as I can see their goal achievement has been reasonably consistent although the 2030 figure seems to have slipped a bit.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 5:11 am

Maybe AOC’s climate change movie will break even by then. (It has almost collected $10k in total from 120 theaters.)

Reply to  Scissor
December 14, 2022 5:32 am

I thought it went straight to “Vincent’s” favorites at Blockbuster?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 3:35 am

Planning to live to be a billion I guess?

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 14, 2022 1:53 pm

Not in my lifetime, I think, but for young people maybe. But there’s plenty of time. Fossil fuels can easily keep everything going until fission takes over all electricity generation and most transport. At that point, fossil fuels can be used much more for the things that don’t require them to be burned. As I think a Saudi minister said a long time ago, fossil fuels are too valuable to be burned. And then fission can easily keep everything going until fusion is ready.

All we need is politicians who don’t go in the opposite direction.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Mike Jonas
December 14, 2022 3:29 am


December 14, 2022 12:25 am

“This astonishing scientific advance puts us on the precipice of a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels “

But not for some time. The usual metric is 30 years

Last edited 3 months ago by strativarius
AGW is Not Science
Reply to  strativarius
December 15, 2022 7:28 am

Yeah well let’s keep on using fossil fuels until we *actually* don’t need them anymore.

Since the time horizon for fusion is supposed to be short(er) now, surely there can be no objection to that. Right?!

Conversely, since wind and solar are NEVER going to provide the energy needed for modern society, we can now abandon that folly immediately. Right?!

December 14, 2022 12:26 am

This is not the whole story there are some fishhooks
there are some tosser stuff in here about fission costs but points out some real fusion issues

Last edited 3 months ago by HB
Reply to  HB
December 14, 2022 3:52 am

It would solve our issues with climate change..

Sorry, it didn’t take two minutes before it bombed.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  strativarius
December 15, 2022 7:29 am

Yeah as in, WHAT ISSUES?!

Rod Evans
December 14, 2022 1:18 am

If this is about achieving more energy out than energy put in, then let’s not forget we achieved that feat via fusion back in the 1950s.
The Russian Tsar Bomb in the 1960s was so powerfully demonstrative at our ability to get energy out, it even frightened them and that takes some doing.
Controlled fusion is highly desirable, sadly this latest step along the way still leaves a lot of future steps ahead before we achieve our goal of controlled fusion energy.
As for controlled fusion happening in our lifetimes goes? Well, those in their early twenties ‘might’ see it.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rod Evans
Jimmy Walter
December 14, 2022 1:29 am

Sorry, Charlie the Tuna, you are not good enough for Sunkist.
“Net energy gain is a significant milestone, but to put it in perspective, it means fusion is now where Fermi put fission about eighty years ago,” Ian Lowe, a physicist and emeritus professor at Griffith University in Australia, told Live Science. Italian-American scientist Enrico Fermi led a team that built the world’s first nuclear fission reactor in 1942, for the purposes of producing fissile materials for constructing the world’s first nuclear bombs.

“The huge technical problem is maintaining a mass of plasma at a temperature of several million degrees to enable fusion, while extracting enough heat to provide useful energy. I still haven’t seen a credible schematic diagram of a fusion reactor that achieves that goal.”

“Probably decades,” Kimberly S. Budil, the director of Lawrence Livermore, said during the Tuesday news conference. “Not six decades, I don’t think. I think not five decades, which is what we used to say. I think it’s moving into the foreground and probably, with concerted effort and investment, a few decades of research on the underlying technologies could put us in a position to build a power plant.”

If you want to see a real breakthrough (though it might not happen either) Follow Eric Lerner leads that project: “The Big Bang Never Happened” is his most famous book. At that site you can see what they have done and how they will do it. Not billions of dollars, not gigawatts of input energy

Eric Vieira
December 14, 2022 1:44 am

Inertial confinement has not even begun to find solutions for continuous production. Even ITER (Tokamak) will not be a commercial plant.

Reply to  Eric Vieira
December 15, 2022 7:22 pm

Commercial? ITER is built without energy output.
When even some research fission reactors had useful power output.
ITER output will be the power of press releases.

December 14, 2022 1:45 am

Break even? Hardly. Hundreds of megajoules worth of electricity generated about 2 megajoules of laser energy which yielded about 3 megajoules of heat from the implosion of a bb’s worth of fusion fuel fixed in a very specific location within the machine. And 3 megajoules is about what is needed to bring your tea pot to a boil. And the hundreds of megajoules of electricity? Pffffft. Unless this machine can generate more energy than all of the energy used to run it, it has not broken even regardless of DOEs press releases.

December 14, 2022 2:33 am

Color me skeptical. I don’t know if I can trust a thing this government claims in any realm or forum. They will corrupt anything! So I will await further developments before I get excited and that will probably be never because I’m sure I’ll be looking at the wrong side of the grass before anything tangible comes from this field.

John DeFayette
December 14, 2022 3:54 am

After 70 years we’re still 40 years away from commercialization. But all of the politicians got their press releases, and the Lab got its funding increase. Truly heroic stuff.

joe x
December 14, 2022 4:05 am

fusion research…making fission reactors more attractive everyday.

Tom Johnson
December 14, 2022 4:26 am

Two Mega-Joules of energy in a stadium sized laboratory is a scary image. Putting it in numbers more people are used to says that “it took about a nickel’s worth of electricity to generate nearly a dime’s worth of power. The next step is to downsize the building”.

joe x
December 14, 2022 4:29 am

schumer, granholm and feinstein, sorry, not sorry that i don’t share your enthusiasm. i have been hearing about fusion breakthroughs since the days of kms fusion. just take half of the $624 million and transfer it directly into the dnc now. that’s where it will be laundered to eventually.

Tom in Florida
December 14, 2022 4:32 am

The whole article reads like a huge advertisement for more money.
And most people don’t understand that “scaling” means more than cleaning a fish.

December 14, 2022 4:54 am

No, they did not. The total amount of energy that was required to produce the result still exceeded the result. There were magnets, lasers, power conversion and so-on. It was damned close tho, if everything had just been a little more efficient at doing its job the facility would have broken even.

I’m not including generation losses and transmission losses in that either.

Last edited 3 months ago by prjndigo
Reply to  prjndigo
December 14, 2022 5:36 am

I’ve used more energy posting this reply that LLNL delivered

Rich Davis
Reply to  clougho
December 14, 2022 4:03 pm

Not a single milliwatt of power was generated. They just measured how much heat was produced. Capturing that heat to make steam and drive a turbine is not even something they’re bothering with at this point.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rich Davis
December 14, 2022 5:08 am

I’ve heard this “announcement” is goobermint deception/propaganda. The government is trying to paint a false pretty picture of the future to detract attention from the coming energy crisis. In reality commercial fusion will prb’ly always be 30 yrs away. In addition, the announcement can be used to justify money appropriations that will actually, like alot of taxpayer money, be laundered into whatever pet projects and political hands they want to.

Last edited 3 months ago by beng135
December 14, 2022 5:45 am
December 14, 2022 5:53 am

A self sustaining fission reactor can be extremely simple. It requires no external energy and can be made self regulating without any moving parts..

The closest thing to a campfire that burns for years without having to add any wood, that automatically builds a hotter fire when you add a pot to boil..

No green energy device, no fusion design, even come close.

Tom Halla
December 14, 2022 6:15 am

Oh, fund fusion research, but defund wind and solar, and build (actually build, not hang up in permitting) fission plants, which actually do have practical designs right now.

December 14, 2022 6:26 am

I am sorry but this is far from being groundbreaking and is much closer to 100% bollocks. If this is to produce usable energy then it needs to have a Q-total that vastly exceeds 1. They are celebrating an improvement for Q-plasma but they are a long way from reaching a self-sustaining figure of at least 5. The Q-total sits at around 0.01.

More Soylent Green!
December 14, 2022 6:30 am

Not so fast… The energy input to the lasers was 100 times the input to the reaction.

Hold the Nuclear Fusion Hype

Pat Frank
December 14, 2022 6:35 am

on a par with the historical significance of the moon landing

No, it’s not. Laser fusion will never be an energy source.

It’s mostly about photon science and testing for nuclear weapons.

Rud Istvan
December 14, 2022 6:49 am

This is in reality nothing, to get more funding. Wrote about NIF is essay ‘Going Nuclear’ in ebook Blowing smoke. Some facts:

  1. generating the 2mj laser beam is 45% efficient, so the experiment did NOT produce more energy than it consumed.
  2. Because of that inefficiency, the laser generating system has to cool down for at least 4 hours between shots. The best achieved when I wrote the essay was 27 shots in one month. Useless for electricity generation.
  3. The misrepresented Net ~1mj is ~0.28kWh. Now the best coal fired steam turbine (USC) run about 41% thermal efficiency. So the actual potential electricity from the experiment is less than 0.1kWh. The NIF thing simply does not scale. This has been known for a decade, and yet they continue.
Pat Frank
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 14, 2022 3:29 pm

Rud, do you see any promise in any of the compact fusion programs?

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Pat Frank
December 15, 2022 1:22 pm

I looked at several a few years ago. They all are (IMO) suspiciously technically goofy in one way or another—shock wave, high beta confinement, plasma pulse. The fact that several of these private companies (plus the Skunk Works) have been at it for several years without showing any substantive progress is another tell. So no, I see little promise.

Put another way, the temperature and pressure needed to overcome the electromagnetic repulsion of like charges (protons) at such small distances is just stupendous. So, as as French physics Nobel laureate de Gennes said,
“The fusion idea is to put the Sun in a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is that we do not know how to make the box.”

Sal Minella
December 14, 2022 7:10 am

Wow! This is like using a match as an ignition source and getting a fire that produces well, as much energy as the match. It should be noted that the amount of energy from the lasers that struck the target was just a small amount of the energy that was used to fire the lasers making the over-unity gain somewhat dubious.

It doesn’t seem free or inexpensive as the fuel costs $30,000/gram.

It took over 60 years to reach this point. The issues of containment, sustainability, and useful energy conversion still remain and they seem more dificult than producing a fusion reaction in the lab. After all we sucessfully produced over unity fusion reactions in the 1950s with hydrogen bombs.

I am not saying that fusion energy generation is not a worthwhile goal but, having installed fusion plants by 2030 as is the stated goal seems a bit over optimistic and this is being presented as “free energy” that will be available to everyone packaged in many sizes from AA battery size to full size generation facilities and everything in between.

The political hype far exceeds the achievement.

December 14, 2022 7:43 am

Nope and no. It’s not viable, not the first that has achieved the same thing. Containing the thing makes it impossible, the more you put in the more expensive it all becomes. This is just a PR move to ask for billions more….for another 50 years of research….it’s a giant waste of money and everyone knows it. But perverse incentives and all that….gotta get a pay check. Fission is here and available and cheap….it’s all just evil politics.

December 14, 2022 7:50 am

>> delivering 2.05 mega joules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output
>> To turn this into a fusion generator, the energy emitted by the target would need to be vastly scaled up,

Well.. I am guessing the “delivered” energy came in the form of ps laser pulses and the “resulting” energy was a cloud of high energy Gamma´s and fast Neutrons.

For a discussions sake let me make a guess on how many magnitudes this is away from anything useful.. please chip in if you know any better estimate

10kW is 5 orders of magnitude less than GW a building of that size should produce.
Conversion of electrical energy to large Ups laser 2 orders of magnitude.Conversion of fusion products to electrical energy 5 orders of magnitude, easily

While I understand that projects like this are a bit desperate after decades of research, this is seems aww a bit too optimistic to me and misleading people is always highly unethical.. this is why we are on this webpage, right?

Oh found this.. but those numbers also do not really help..

Last edited 3 months ago by morfu03
December 14, 2022 8:56 am

Let’s keep this in its still 30 years away perspective – this process used 130 times the energy it made – we still need fossil fuels and existing nuclear technologies for decades to come

Last edited 3 months ago by Energywise
Reply to  Energywise
December 15, 2022 12:23 pm

I think a lot more than 30 years, if ever.

Bruce Cobb
December 14, 2022 9:12 am

It’s a pipe dream. Maybe it will become reality in 50 or 100 years, who knows. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we need fossil fuels and fission nukes to provide us with reliable, affordable electricity. Those pushing this fusion pipe dream have certainly latched onto the carbon myth. Wonder why.

December 14, 2022 9:29 am

We won’t see this type of fusion energy this century, most likely never.
Two really, really big problems. First, as has been pointed out by others, there is no real actual energy gain when you take the energy needed to fire the lasers into account. In fact, they are only getting 1% of what is put in out. Now, to commercialize this energy source they would need to get about a factor of 10 more energy out then they put in. So you need to improve the efficiency by a factor of 1000! They’ve been struggling for years to get factors of two or so. So a real breakthrough is needed.

Second problem is the fuel and its container (hohlraum). For a commercial reactor you would need to fire about 10 shots per second, or 300 million per year, each shot of course destroying the fuel pellet and container. To keep costs down you would want the fuel and its container to cost a dollar or less. Not easy for a gold-coated cylinder with a fuel pellet that is enclosed in a (manufactured) diamond. My guess is that the hohlraum and fuel pellet presently cost about $50,000 to make, so that cost would have to be reduced by a factor of 50,000!

Don’t get me wrong, what they have done is a very impressive technological achievement and they should congratulated. But we are much closer to having electric-powered airplanes flying us across the Atlantic, than inertial confinement fusion energy; after all we only need to improve battery energy densities by a factor of one hundred for that to happen!

Len Werner
December 14, 2022 9:45 am

The most despicable part of this announcement is the politicization of science; what does ‘The Biden-Harris administration’, that has been in office for 2 years, have to do with a 60 year frontier of physics project?

I do however know how to highlight the ridicule that such a statement deserves–put Kamala Harris in front of a camera and have her explain how fusion works. We will have copious quantities of cheap fusion energy long before anyone sorts out the word salad that brain will generate in such an attempt.

December 14, 2022 10:23 am

The progressives view fusion as “green” but fission as “dirty”.

The fact is both produce radioactive waste. What makes fusion stand out is the fact it’s a long, long, long way from practical realization.

Writing Observer
December 14, 2022 10:31 am

“Maybe.” “Might be.” Yawn…

I exceed “break even” on energy production about half a second after lighting the wood pellets in my barbecue. Anyone want to throw me a few hundred million to scale that up to Drax levels?

Larry Hamlin
December 14, 2022 10:39 am

The total energy provided to the 192 lasers used to heat the tiny pellet of hydrogen to fusion temperatures and pressures for a few billionths of a second was about 400 megajoules. This total input energy produced about 3.15 megajoules of fusion heat energy output. Thus it took about 130 times more energy input to create the fusion energy output over a few billionths of a second.Additionally if this fusion heat energy is to be converted to electricity significant additional thermodynamic losses will occur. Most of the press hype about this worthy accomplishment are lacking in appropriate engineering detail to inform readers.
Also claims made that fusion energy schemes have no radioactive waste products are also completely wrong.

Gary Pearse
December 14, 2022 10:42 am

Bravo if they didn’t cook the results a little. Yeah, I’m very jaded from decades of manipulated science of climate and the 75% of higher education budgets for woke boutique, zero-information course content faculties. And, of course math is racist so that could taint the study if objective was really achieved.

December 14, 2022 10:56 am

How much did the LLlab with 192 high energy lasers cost? Get back to me when the output is six to eight times the total inputs or the reaction is sustainable. Yet again, a decade away just like the 12960s 70s 80s….

December 14, 2022 11:38 am

this story reminds me so much of Theranos…

Joe Crawford
December 14, 2022 12:29 pm

Who’s going to convince the Econuts that electricity generation based on the Hydrogen Bomb is safer that that generated by the Atomic Bomb :<)

Last edited 3 months ago by Joe Crawford
December 14, 2022 12:33 pm

Trust Chuck Schumer to say something completely stupid:

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,

So when do we get our Mr. Fusion powerplants for our DeLoreans, Chuck? Until they engineer one, we’ll be using fossil fuels for transportation for decades to come. Unless there’s an unforeseen breakthrough in practical power storage that rivals the power and energy density of fossil fuels so we can store power from the fusion powerplants of the bright future when they come online in the next…century or two?

Larry Hamlin
December 14, 2022 3:44 pm

For those that consider fusion the “perfect’ energy source consider the following.

A listing of the many science and engineering problems hidden by proponents of fusion as the “perfect” energy source with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists link addressing these problems in much more detail also provided.  

“As noted above, fusion reactions in the sun burn ordinary hydrogen at enormous density and temperature, sustained by an effectively infinite confinement time, and the reaction products are benign helium isotopes. Artificial (terrestrial) fusion schemes, on the other hand, are restricted to much lower particle densities and much more fleeting energy confinement, and are therefore compelled to use the heavier neutron-rich isotopes of hydrogen known as deuterium and tritium—which are 24 orders of magnitude more reactive than ordinary hydrogen. (Think of the numeral one with 24 zeroes after it.) This gargantuan advantage in fusion reactivity allows human-made fusion assemblies to be workable with a billion times lower particle density and a trillion times poorer energy confinement than the levels that the sun enjoys. Consequently, the proponents of fusion reactors claim that when they are developed, fusion reactors will constitute a “perfect” energy source that will share none of the significant drawbacks of the much-maligned fission reactors.
“But unlike what happens in solar fusion—which uses ordinary hydrogen—Earth-bound fusion reactors that burn neutron-rich isotopes have byproducts that are anything but harmless: Energetic neutron streams comprise 80 percent of the fusion energy output of deuterium-tritium reactions and 35 percent of deuterium-deuterium reactions.

“Now, an energy source consisting of 80 percent energetic neutron streams may be the perfect neutron source, but it’s truly bizarre that it would ever be hailed as the ideal electrical energy source. In fact, these neutron streams lead directly to four regrettable problems with nuclear energy: radiation damage to structures; radioactive waste; the need for biological shielding; and the potential for the production of weapons-grade plutonium 239—thus adding to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, not lessening it, as fusion proponents would have it.

“In addition, if fusion reactors are indeed feasible—as assumed here—they would share some of the other serious problems that plague fission reactors, including tritium release, daunting coolant demands, and high operating costs. There will also be additional drawbacks that are unique to fusion devices: the use of a fuel (tritium) that is not found in nature and must be replenished by the reactor itself; and unavoidable on-site power drains that drastically reduce the electric power available for sale.”

“To sum up, fusion reactors face some unique problems: a lack of a natural fuel supply (tritium), and large and irreducible electrical energy drains to offset. Because 80 percent of the energy in any reactor fueled by deuterium and tritium appears in the form of neutron streams, it is inescapable that such reactors share many of the drawbacks of fission reactors—including the production of large masses of radioactive waste and serious radiation damage to reactor components. These problems are endemic to any type of fusion reactor fueled with deuterium-tritium, so abandoning tokamaks for some other confinement concept can provide no relief.”

Reply to  Larry Hamlin
December 14, 2022 5:00 pm

Advances have been made in aneutronic fusion that elude these issues. Appalling ignorance all around.

Reply to  posa
December 15, 2022 10:35 am

“Advances” in hype is more like it.

December 14, 2022 4:54 pm

Robert Hirsch, former head of Fusion Research at DoE explains why magnetic confinement fusion systems are not amenable to serve eventually as commercial reactors. The critique equally applies to inertial confinement systems using lasers. These factors include fuels, radioactivity, energy gains, capital requirements etc.

Says Hirsch,

As this analysis will show, tokamak fusion power will almost certainly be a commercial failure, which is a tragedy in light of the time, funds, and effort so far expended. However, this particular failure does not mean that fusion power is a dead end. Research is under way on other technological approaches, which can benefit from the lessons learned from the tokamak experience. First we must understand where the tokamak approach went off the tracks.

Note the language:

However, this particular failure does not mean that fusion power is a dead end. Research is under way on other technological approaches, which can benefit from the lessons learned from the tokamak experience.

There are a number of new designs underway, such as Dense Plasma Focus. That’s where the future lies.

Last edited 3 months ago by posa
December 14, 2022 5:19 pm

I’m not a physicist or a nuclear engineer, and won’t play one on the internet. Instead, I recall a conversation I had 19 years ago with someone who was. Met the guy on the QE2, having popped for a first-class ticket. You meet interesting people in first class on one of those crossings.

I asked him about fusion, and he replied that achieving positive “total Q” (aka positive EROEI) is the easy problem. He said the hard one is containment. The promoters fixate on the lack of spent fuel waste, but ignore the waste of the containment vessels themselves. He explained that the neutron bombardment of those vessels is orders of magnitude greater than what happens inside of fission reactors, and that no materials on earth can withstand it.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article, 2017, roughly matches what I was told in 2003. Thus, I am highly skeptical. They made the “breakthrough” announcement right smack at budget time, and relied on the media’s stupid, lazy stenographers to pass it along without even asking basic questions.

If my skepticism is going to be wrong, it’ll be wrong after I’m dead and gone. Frankly, I don’t think it’ll be wrong.

Reply to  JakeJ
December 14, 2022 5:24 pm

Something else. When I was in college in the 1970s, the Lyndon LaRouchies, who were conspiracy nutcases before conspiracy nutcases were cool, were hyping fusion along with their theories about the British royal family’s financial skulduggery. It was laughable then, and now we see the Biden administration and the media taking up the baton and running with it.

Apart from the science, which I admit to not understanding past a curious and reasonably intelligent yet non-specialist’s grasp, the heritage of fusion hype and the current reality offers good reason for cynicism.

Reply to  JakeJ
December 14, 2022 9:35 pm

Yes. And humans will never fly in aircraft powered by gasoline engines.

Reply to  JakeJ
December 14, 2022 9:33 pm

Aneutronic fusion does not generate neutrons ie radiation. The world has changed over the past 20 years.

Reply to  posa
December 15, 2022 12:22 pm

No one has even come remotely close to demonstrating it. As you well know, but have curiously not menbtioned here, is that even the theoretical challenges are far greater with “aneutronic fusion” than with this form.

May Contain Traces of Seafood
December 14, 2022 6:10 pm

So… we can now update the delivery date on fusion to 10 years away?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  May Contain Traces of Seafood
December 15, 2022 11:06 am

Only if it can still be 10 years away 10 years from now? 😀

Kit P
December 14, 2022 6:19 pm

I am impressed that scientist that can not do an energy balance can fuse hydrogen atoms.

Smoke is coming out of my BS meter. Going out to the garage now to work on a patent for an energy producing device. From reading comments here all I need to violate the laws of is a garage.

Loren Wilson
December 14, 2022 6:51 pm

The fuel pellet contains a diamond sphere encasing the fuel. They have to drop the pellets into the reactor (which clearly won’t work if they get any reasonable amount of fusion going) at a high rate to create heat. How much does each pellet cost?

December 14, 2022 11:09 pm

This fusion “breakthrough” is such a colossal joke.

Fusion reactors are many decades, if not a century or more away from being viable.

it’s nearly impossible to hold 100 million C of heated plasma in a magnetic field 24/7/365.

Even the grant hounds admit “We’re decades away from fusion reactors being viable.”

This silly “fusion breakthrough” announcement was just a ploy to get $billions more in research grants, which will likely continue for a century…

The timing of this “fusion breakthrough” is also interesting….

Leftists will soon need to explain that the blackouts and cascading grid failures are being caused by their insane polices of shutting down far too many nuclear and fossil plants and futilely trying to replace them with expensive, intermittent and unreliable wind and solar energy.

Leftists will then say not to worry. We can still shutdown fossil fuel energy because fusion power is just around the corner so we can continue our insane wind and solar rollout to meet our Carbon Net-Zero target by 2035…

Not so much…

Leftists are truly evil…

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  SAMURAI
December 15, 2022 11:12 am

Yes but if “fusion is just around the corner” then an equally justified position is that we should just keep using what works (fossil fuels) and not waste another dime on what doesn’t (wind and solar).

Then they either have to back off on their ‘necessary’ (read impossible) “transition” to (worse-than-useless) ‘renewables’ or admit that their “fusion is just around the corner” speculation is yet another steaming pile of manure.

December 15, 2022 3:24 am

The claim of “break even” is so wrong as to be close to fraudulent.
As Anton Petrov pointed out on a recent youtube, they are using the same trick often used to convince gullible politicians that commercial fusion is just around the corner.

In this case they calculate the energy that hit the pellet and compared it with the energy emitted from the collision. It emitted 1.5 times more energy, so the gain factor was 1.5 or 150% Yes, this is a noteworthy achievement, but it says nothing about the possibility of commercial fusion.

That’s because there’s a slight problem with that 150% figure. The huge battery of lasers required a massive amount of energy to focus the final energy onto the pellet. It required about 100 times the energy that was emitted from the pellet. So the gain factor in any practical sense wasn’t 150% – it was 1%.

Of course, if they announced that they generated just one hundredth of the input energy after years of work, then even the most gullible politicians might think those millions of dollars could be better spent elsewhere.

It’s often said that the trouble with fusion power is that it’s always 30 years away. I think it’s still 30 years away – and will continue to be for an awful long time.

December 15, 2022 6:36 am

It is a bad joke, this happened a year ago, it took 322 MJ to charge 192 lasers that pulsed a $1 million dollar pellet once to produce 3.15 MJ – several accounts of the process all have varying amounts of power to charge the 192 lasers but they all are above 300 MJ. At the current $1 million cost per pellet to run a plant for a year would cost $1 trillion dollars (before inflation!).

December 15, 2022 8:23 am

 The break even claim only applies to the amount of energy pumped into the fusion target, vs the amount emitted, not the total energy expended to perform the experiment. 
So it is a net negative in energy. That means it didn’t work … yet.
Energy _is_ Civilization.

December 15, 2022 9:11 am

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).”

Lots of confusing comments about all this. One key concept I have not seen discussed much is that this is about “inertial fusion energy” grossly simplistic terms this is about fusion energy being created via a series of discrete fusion events…ie micro bombs…which infers that output is regulated by the rate and size of the discrete events. On the other hand, the other major fusion power concept is via magnetic containment, whereby fusion power is induced and regulated in a plasma…ie continuous output as far as I understand.

I will be looking for much more sophisticated and insightful comments as to whether this current experiment has any real significance aside from obvious click bait PR.(Not necessarily a bad thing if it catalyzes more actual progress…)

I know there are some very smart and insightful commentors here on WUWT…please look deep here.

Ethan Brand

December 15, 2022 1:53 pm

People have wanted to do many things over time. One thing is to control fusion in the laboratory. It seems to have been achievable.

Another thing people have wanted to do over time is turn lead into gold. It was achieved in the decades around 1940 or so, in the newly developed particle accelerators. Unfortunately, it still has not been made economical……

December 15, 2022 6:54 pm

With tokamaks the propaganda scums count “break even” as thermal energy in/out.
But the energy in is in form of extremely high temperature plasma which is made at huge energetic cost with electricity.
So we have huge electricity in and some thermal energy out.
It’s big con.

Captain Climate
December 16, 2022 3:44 pm

The net energy generated would only boil
1.2kg of water. This is a farce.

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