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National Ignition Facility achieves fusion ignition

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced the achievement of fusion ignition at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). On 5 December, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone—known as scientific energy breakeven.

LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (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.


The target chamber of LLNL’s National Ignition Facility, where 192 laser beams delivered more than 2 million joules of ultraviolet energy to a tiny fuel pellet to create fusion ignition.


The hohlraum that houses the type of cryogenic target used to achieve ignition.

Fusion is the process by which two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. In the 1960s, a group of pioneering scientists at LLNL hypothesized that lasers could be used to induce fusion in a laboratory setting. Led by physicist John Nuckolls, who later served as LLNL director from 1988 to 1994, this idea became inertial confinement fusion, kicking off more than 60 years of research and development in lasers, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation and experimental design.

To pursue this concept, LLNL built a series of increasingly powerful laser systems, leading to the creation of NIF, the world’s largest and most energetic laser system. NIF—located at LLNL—is the size of a sports stadium and uses powerful laser beams to create temperatures and pressures like those in the cores of stars and giant planets, and inside exploding nuclear weapons.


To create fusion ignition, the National Ignition Facility’s laser energy is converted into X-rays inside the hohlraum, which then compress a fuel capsule until it implodes, creating a high temperature, high pressure plasma.

Achieving ignition was made possible by dedication from LLNL employees as well as countless collaborators at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Nevada National Security Site; General Atomics; academic institutions, including the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University; international partners, including the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission; and stakeholders at DOE and NNSA and in Congress.



"Many advanced science and technology developments are still needed to achieve simple, affordable IFE to power homes and businesses"
Bit of an understatement, IMO.


The operating principle of this fusion-type reactor has been proven several times in the past 6 odd years. However, this is the first time that the power output has exceeded the power input. I.O.W. the right "direction" has been pegged.
The present pressure on the energy market might enhance the progress of this fusion reactor and it may not be too long before it contributes its share of power on the grid.


Im interrested to buy sustainable electricity from them at a lower cost than my current electricity.


@ gorr, I wouldn't hold your breath.
Note that the energy in is optical energy (light) as is the energy out.
However, the light in has to be created using electricity, which is something like 0.5% efficient.
They put 400 Mj into the laser for 2.05 Mj laser light to get 3.15 Mj or energy out.
I may be wrong on the details, but I wouldn't sell my Shell shares yet.
(if I had any).

Albert E Short

It's very difficult to see how one could build a commercial reactor out of this. It looks to be more of a research device to test fusion dynamics. The term "ignition" is misleading in terms of what it would mean for an ITER/Tokamak device in which there would be a continuous reaction throwing off enough recoverable energy to keep itself going.


“Gorr” lives in Quebec. It has the lowest electricity rates in North America (7.59 cents/kWh).
Ninety-four percent of Québec’s electricity generation comes from hydroelectric resources.

This is a great breakthrough and as stated it is years if not decades away from anything close to an electric generating system. It is very critical, however, to nuclear weapons research.


I agree with Gryf. It is an impressive scientific breakthrough but it will not lead to commercial power generation for at least decades and this type of fusion may never lead to commercial power generation. If I had to place a bet on Fusion power, I would bet on Commonwealth Fusion which is building a Tokamak type fusion reactor with a new stronger magnetic design. See: They are building a small scale reactor now which is supposed to reach net energy output and they claim that they are going to start on a commercial power scale reactor in 2025 but I suspect that this may be a bit optimistic. There is also HB11 (hydrogen plus Boron 11 fusion reaction that produces 3 helium ions with lots of energy) but but I am not sure they completely understand the physics yet so, while interesting, it will not happen anytime soon.

Anyway, I would like to see more effort put into building Gen 4 fission reactors and especially high temp fast reactors which will make a difference much sooner.

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