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Department of Energy Achieves Inertial Fusion Ignition Milestone

Department of Energy Achieves Inertial Fusion Ignition Milestone

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) last week announced the achievement of fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)—a breakthrough decades in the making that will pave the way for further innovations in national defense, clean energy, and many other areas. On December 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.

“For over 60 years, key leaders from across the ASME community have come together to drive innovation, safety, and sustainability in nuclear energy. Today’s historic announcement from the Department of Energy launches an exciting new chapter in nuclear engineering and a major milestone on the journey to achieving the dream of clean fusion energy and a cleaner, healthier environment. There are still many years of discovery and innovation ahead, but we should take a moment to celebrate the achievements of the scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy and their partners around the world. ASME looks forward to continuing our work to provide the codes and standards resources, collaboration, and tools for nuclear engineers to power a clean energy future,” said ASME’s Executive Director/CEO Tom Costabile. 
The lasers used by the NIF are the most energetic in the world, but based on older technology and require in total about 300 megajoules (MJ) to operate. LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 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.
For additional information on the DOE’s Fusion Energy Sciences program, visit here.

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