This morning, the world learned that the National Ignition Facility, a federal research lab in the United States, had successfully achieved net-positive nuclear fusion. The small fuel pellet exploded when struck by lasers, releasing more power than the lasers themselves.
Using fusion power has been on the horizon for decades. Is this the time that God has promised us?
Here are the specifics: The NIF reportedly initiated a fusion reaction yesterday that produced 2.5 megajoules of energy, or 20% more than the 2.1 megajoules of laser energy that zapped the fuel pellet, as reported by the Financial Times. If verified, this would be the first time a controlled nuclear fusion experiment of any type generated more energy than it used.
So far, the facility’s host, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has declined to corroborate the story. However, the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and Bloomberg all reported about the tests with quotes from people who were familiar with them. Tomorrow, Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Jill Hruby and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm are anticipated to make a joint statement.
Carolyn Kuranz, an associate professor at the University of Michigan who has conducted tests at the NIF, stated, “If this claim is genuine, then this is really a great scientific success in the quest of fusion.”
In the previous year alone, investors have been increasingly enthusiastic about fusion, pouring $2.7 billion into fusion-related firms. The area has advanced at an unprecedented rate thanks to developments in high-temperature superconductors, computational power, and artificial intelligence.
A number of prominent venture capital firms, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital, have made sizeable investments in fusion power ventures in recent years.
What NIF has done is “the most significant step toward fusion that could possibly be taken,” Sacca told TechCrunch. Our negative critics have our prayers and good intentions today.
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