Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm made a breaking announcement on Tuesday with giant implications for the energy future of the United States and the world — revealing that the U.S. is the first country in the world to achieve nuclear fusion ignition inside of a lab.
Fusion energy occurs when two atomic nuclei fuse together, and when the energy created (ignition) is greater than the energy put into it (laser).
This creates near-endless possibilities for the future of clean power and can become part of the solution for the planet’s climate emergency woes.
On December 5, 2022, the United States solidified its place in scientific history, over 60 years after the Physicist John Nuckolls first thought that it was possible.
“Last week, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists at the National Ignition Facility achieved fusion ignition,” Secretary Granholm said at a press conference. “It’s the first time it’s ever been done in a laboratory – anywhere in the world. Simply put, this is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century.”
“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement, according to VOA News.
The Department of Energy, in partnership with Livermore Labs and the National Nuclear Security Administration, succeeded where others have not— by creating fusion power in a lab, successfully passing the threshold.
“This breakthrough will change the future of clean power and America’s national defense forever,” the Department of Energy tweeted.
BREAKING NEWS: This is an announcement that has been decades in the making.
On December 5, 2022 a team from DOE's @Livermore_Lab made history by achieving fusion ignition.
This breakthrough will change the future of clean power and America’s national defense forever. pic.twitter.com/hFHWbmCNQJ
— U.S. Department of Energy (@ENERGY) December 13, 2022
President Joe Biden and his administration have been committed to reducing carbon emissions and our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
So far over 750,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in America, and they’re primarily related to clean energy.
The successful passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, considered to be the single most significant legislation to combat climate change in our nation’s history, according to the Department of Transportation, will invest nearly $370 billion to help create a clean energy economy.
“Workers should benefit from the clean energy economy they’re helping build. The guidance announced today provides firms greater clarity on how to meet the labor standards embedded in the bill to maximize the available tax credits.” – Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary
The creation of a fusion reaction has been possible since as far back as the 1940s, but the amount of power needed to create the reaction has always exceeded what was created.
While this is certainly promising, it could be at least a decade before we begin to see fusion power come to viable fruition and begin to reap the benefits.
A major difference between fusion and fission reactors is the radioactive waste created by the use of materials like uranium and plutonium. Instead, fusion can possibly be fueled by hydrogen, meaning the energy supply would be almost endless thanks to hydrogen’s abundance in the universe.
Fusion is also safer.
Alex Gilbert, a Fellow at the Payne Institute, admitted that we are still in the developmental stage and will need to take the necessary steps to bring fusion energy to the world.
“We’ll have to do demonstration projects over the next decade and a half to be able to get this to the market. We need to be able to get not just energy out of the reaction, we need to get it all the way to market to produce electricity,” Gilbert said on an episode of MSNBC‘s Meet the Press.
How long will it take to become viable in a widely used way?
— Christopher Webb (@cwebbonline) December 13, 2022
The Payne Institute is a Colorado organization committed to creating, developing, and investing in projects that will lead to a net zero energy future and to supporting developing economies by establishing sustainable energy systems around the globe.
While we won’t see immediate changes to the environment or change in the climate crisis, this discovery definitely moves the needle forward.
Scientific innovation and creation are central to making the progress needed to adapt in an evolving world.
The sun and the stars and driven by fusion energy, and we are now one step closer to being able to duplicate the reactions.
“This is our Planet’s first step towards ultimate clean energy, and THIS is why investing in America’s National Labs matters,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm wrote on social media.
Original reporting by Rob Garver at VOA News.
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