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ASP Statement on the National Ignition Facility’s Fusion Energy Breakthrough NIF target area operators performing inspections on the final optics assembly. Photo credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab

ASP Statement on the National Ignition Facility’s Fusion Energy Breakthrough

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Today, the Department of Energy made a major announcement that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore Labs had achieved “ignition,” creating a fusion reaction that for the first time released more energy than it used. Specifically, the reaction used 2.05 megajoules of energy, and produced 3.15, a net increase of over 53% at the target. The importance of this monumental achievement cannot be understated. This breakthrough has been decades in the making, but vindicates ASP’s long-held position that the U.S. could achieve significant breakthroughs in fusion energy within a decade. In this case, the NIF uses inertial confinement fusion to achieve its reactions, which involves the use of 192 lasers aimed at a pellet of fuel comprised of deuterium and tritium.

Reacting to the announcement, Andrew Holland, former ASP COO and now CEO of the Fusion Industry Association (FIA), said:

“Today’s announcement shows the world that fusion is not science fiction: it will soon be a viable source of energy. There are still many steps between these experimental results and fusion power plants, but this is an important milestone for fusion.”

In our lifetimes, fusion energy can provide low-cost, carbon free energy to the world. While this experiment does not mean that the commercial application of fusion energy is coming immediately, it does mean that the first step to achieving commercially feasible power has been made, and that the vision of putting fusion energy on the grid is not only conceivable, it is destined to happen. We believe American companies sit on the verge of a variety of breakthroughs in fusion, and that commercialization of this potential energy source is much closer than many have predicted.

Though there will still be some time before commercialization is realized, this month’s breakthrough is likely to unleash a flurry of progress that will, according to the FIA, demand the establishment of regulatory regimes aimed at protecting the public and encouraging innovation. We also believe that the time is ripe for investment in this technology, and that national attention given to the mission of making the U.S. a leader in fusion energy technology will pay dividends for American leadership, the American economy, and the world’s fight against climate change.