The fusion dream comes true at Lawrence Livermore lab | Tim Talk | Tim Hunt | |

Local Blogs

Tim Talk

By Tim Hunt

E-mail Tim Hunt

About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

View all posts from Tim Hunt

The fusion dream comes true at Lawrence Livermore lab

Uploaded: Dec 15, 2022
Smiles had to be the order of the day for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees after the teams at the National Ignition Facility achieved nuclear fusion at the giant laser facility.
The shot from the huge 192 lasers generated 2.05 megajoules of energy that resulted in 3.15 megajoules of fusion energy output. It proved, for the first time, that fusion is possible, capping a nearly six-decade effort and opening the door to an even more demanding season. Fusion is the energy that powers the sun and other stars. One of the lab leaders noted that during the shot conditions for a very, very brief time were more than 2 times higher than the center of the sun.
The successful shot took place at 1 a.m. on Dec. 5 and exceeded the output on a shot last August that showed positive results. The challenge for the NIF team is that they had not been able to replicate the 2021 results in four additional tests until the Dec. 5 success. The Energy Dept. pulled out all of its big wigs to tout the remarkable achievement that conveniently fits into their clean energy drive.
The lab’s core competency has been hinged to lasers for decades. The concept for NIF grew out of the need to better understand nuclear weapons once the test ban took effect 30 years ago. As lab Director Kim Budil said, borrowing a line from a former laser leader, that LLNL stands for Lasers, Lasers, Nothing but Lasers. A friend, who is a retired lab employee in computations, remarked that when he came on board in the 1970s magnetic fusion was a key program at the lab—I remember that as well, but those programs were mothballed and the focus became lasers and NIF.
NIF and achieving fusion demonstrates just how persistently and effectively the lab does big science. Just to construct the bay of lasers that are housed in a specially constructed building the size of three football fields, the NIF team had to invent new technology as they went along. That included finding a way to grow crystals for the optics much faster. The NIF portion of the lab’s website touts “The Seven Wonders of NIF” for those new achievements. It cost $3.5 billion to build and has an annual budget of $349 million.
As director Budil observed, this is a milestone, but there’s lots and lots to do before there’s a fusion power plant providing nuclear energy without nuclear waste (the downside of fission reactors) and limitless fuel.
The engineering challenges have been daunting to date. The shot lasts a fraction of a second with tolerances measured in the trillions as the lasers bombard a BB-sized target. The challenge now becomes scale—moving from one shot to many shots per minute to produce energy. Budil declined to say whether that plant is another six decades away—she indicated she hoped the time would be shorter. President Biden has challenged researchers to provide one in 10 years—likely a pipe dream given the amount of technical hurdles awaiting either laser or magnetic fusion.
One encouraging fact is that fusion was achieved with lasers using technology developed years ago and they have gotten better and better. For the record, it took from May 1997 to May 2009, 12 years, to build NIF.
Listening to the lab team of seven who presented on a panel in Washington D.C. after the formal announcement, you could not help but be impressed. Congrats to all involved for many, many years. Enjoy the bubbly and then get back to it.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Helen Beacham, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Dec 16, 2022 at 8:20 am

Helen Beacham is a registered user.

Can this technology be used as an effective air defense system against incoming ICBMs carrying nuclear warheads?

And can it also be utilized in place of the conventional ordinance carried by warplanes to take out ground targets?

Lawrence Livermore & Sandia Labs have always been in the forefront when it comes to designing modern fusion weaponry.

Posted by Jim, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Dec 16, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Jim is a registered user.

Removed because it was off-topic.

Please, Kevin, or "Jim..." (lol) don't make us shut down comments on another blog.

Posted by Rich Buckley, a resident of Jensen Tract,
on Dec 17, 2022 at 7:19 am

Rich Buckley is a registered user.

Great idea, this Fusion Energy thing... been following it for decades.... and its always just decades away (maybe)....makes me wonder if the Deep State LLNL .... (Anton discusses the science Web Link
more comprehensively) .... masters are doing all they can to divert my attention off a failing Ukrainian police action/war, a failed Federal Reserve, hyper inflation, to mention a few. Perhaps what LLNL needs to consider as they call for public input regarding SWEIS Comment is:

On January 6, 2023 the US Supreme Court is Docketed to start review of protocols that may then lead quickly to the reversal of legitimacy of the Biden Administration.

A range of likely consequences should be considered in the event Biden Administration is declared illegitimate by emerging facts and supporting testimony brought into popular public awareness.

Rich Buckley, Pres.
Peace And Conflict Resolution . Org.
California, USA

Posted by DublinMike, a resident of Dublin,
on Dec 17, 2022 at 9:56 am

DublinMike is a registered user.

"... doing all they can to divert my attention..." Mr. Buckley,this article is not about you, by any stretch.

"... US Supreme Court... reversal of legitimacy of the Biden Administration." Once again, he's off-topic.

PeaceAndConflict Resolution.Org... not found

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Castlewood,
on Dec 17, 2022 at 6:27 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

(Post removed )
Kevin, why don't you start presenting your opinions in a rational manner and include facts instead of emotional hatred?
I have received several complaints about you. I need to close threads because of you, and that is not fair to people who want to have a civil conversation.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Community foundations want to help local journalism survive
By Tim Hunt | 20 comments | 1,701 views

I Do I Don't: How to build a better marriage Ch. 1, page 1
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,357 views

Pop open the beer at the holiday table
By Deborah Grossman | 3 comments | 846 views