Nuclear Fusion Yields First Net Energy Gain

First Net Gain From Fusion Reaction
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced the breakthrough made by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. | Image by U.S. Department of Energy

A fusion reactor at a federal laboratory has achieved a fusion ignition, producing more power than was put into it. This is the first time in history that any laboratory has successfully achieved a net gain from a fusion reactor.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced this extraordinary breakthrough made by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) on Tuesday.

“Simply put this is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century,” said Granholm.

Granholm said that this announcement moves forward President Joe Biden’s goal of achieving commercial fusion energy within a decade.

Nuclear fusion occurs when lighter nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus, which releases energy. This process powers the sun and other stars.

Researchers were working on fusion energy applications with deuterium-tritium (DT) reactions, as this fusion releases more energy than the fusion of other elements. Scientists attempting fusion reactions to this point had not succeeded in yielding a net gain in energy from the reactions.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory changed that.

The lab’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) fusion reactor uses high-energy lasers to create heat and pressure to transform deuterium and tritium into plasma so fusion can occur.

The LLNL released a report on December 8 detailing tests it had conducted using room-temperature capsules filled with pure deuterium versus cryogenically cooled deuterium. These low-power tests used a magnetized room-temperature gas-filled capsule and achieved a 40% increase in hot-spot temperature and more than tripled energy yield.

Scientists at the facility hope the results could lead to self-sustaining fusion reactions.

“Having gotten a successful result at room temperature, we’re now busy building the cryogenic pulser that we’re going to use to magnetize a DT-ice-layered implosion,” said John Moody, a NIF & Photon Science physicist, in the report.

Nuclear fusion is considered a “cleaner” form of energy as it produces no greenhouse gasses and very little waste. Currently, nuclear plants generate power through fission using uranium as fuel, which supplies 20% of the power consumed in the U.S.

Congressman Ted Lieu of California tweeted in response to the announcement, “If this fusion energy breakthrough is true, it could be a game changer for the world.”

Granholm declared that this accomplishment strengthens U.S. national security with a safe and effective nuclear deterrent and provides a possible path to powering society with zero carbon emissions.

“If we can advance fusion energy, we could use it to produce clean electricity, transportation fuels, power heavy industries, and so much more,” said Granholm. “It would be like adding a power drill to our toolbox in building this clean energy economy,” she continued.

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  1. SCR

    Fusion energy would be historic. Wind and solar would become obsolete overnight. Fuel cells would be very economical and the grid would be able to support a lot more EVs.

    • Wolfman

      When I heard this, the very first thing I thought about was Mr. Fusion from Back To The Future, lol

  2. RiverKing

    Granholm declared that this accomplishment strengthens U.S. national security with a safe and effective nuclear deterrent …” I’m going to need some explanation of this. What is the connection between nuclear fusion and a “nuclear deterrent”?

    • Wolfman

      I think she’s trying to create a correlation between Fusion and the melt down of a fission plant, like 3 mile Island or that one in Russia decades ago. It’s a stupid connection, but Granny Grunt Granholm has never been a very intelligent person. She’s the reason I left Michigan for Texas 20 years ago. Best decision I ever made.

  3. Wolfman

    I have questions. How long did the energy release last? Did it stop when the lasers were shut down?


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