A youthful technical panel of National Ignition Facility (NIF) scientists convened to discuss details of the achievement and what ignition might mean for the future of fusion energy. Credit: DOE

“...The World will little note or long remember what we say here, but they can never forget what they did at the National Ignition Facility…”

Dr. Mark Adams, nuclear engineer and current DOE Deputy Administrator of Defense Programs, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln at the DOE press conference December 13, 2022, on the December 5th fusion breakthrough at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Yes, we can reproduce the energy of the Sun! This has been a goal of mankind since the 1950seven the 1930s. As we learned that we could use our understanding of nuclear science to produce nuclear weapons, we asked, “could we also downsize the power of the Sun to laboratory scale,” to explore and develop fusion as a powerful new tool for our use. Could this be done?

Now we have proof of principle. The December 5, 2022 science experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California has made history. It is a consequence of real science at work over decades.

At the December 13, 2022 Technical Panel in Washington, DC, the young LLNL lead-scientists shared  their results and pathway forward, which they and their National Ignition Facility teams surmise. Many of them first came to LLNL as undergraduate students. Thousands of men and women contributed to this effort, both at LLNL and around our nation.

The Role of President Donald Trump

In January, 2021, still under the first Trump administration, the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee of the DOE unanimously approved a strategic plan to guide the Department of Energy’s efforts in fusion energy and plasma physics research over the next decade. The plan outlined investment priorities, focusing especially on “facilities and programs” needed to pave the way toward building a U.S.-based pilot fusion power plant operating by 2040. So, while the Biden collective is busy now, desperate to dangle the potential of a “green” fusion pilot project as a trinket, in-front of a population they consider as childish, the real story is entirely different!

Then on February 17, 2021, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released their report, which had been prepared under the first Trump administration: “Bringing Fusion to the Grid.” Prepared in cooperation with a broad array of scientific, industrial, and academic leaders, plans to build a fusion power plant in the United States came fully to the fore.  The United States should start construction of the pilot by 2035 and have it running by 2040 their findings concluded. It laid out a timeline for building a multibillon dollar fusion energy plant, as well as a strategy for developing its design. The plan is the product of a two year effort to forge a consensus within the US fusion and plasma science community. In their description the National Academy stated,

“Technology and research results from US investments in the major international fusion burning plasma experiment known as ITER, located in France, coupled with a foundation of research funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), position the United States to begin planning for its first fusion pilot plant.”

To meet their schedule, the report calls for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help fund two to four teams that, in collaboration with private industry, would develop by 2028 distinct, parallel conceptual designs.  In short, a Manhattan Project, the equivalent of a Moon Shot. The pilot fusion energy plant would produce 50 megawatts of electrical power.

This new impetus was driven by the can-do spirit of the Trump Presidency. The fake news has given all of this zero attention!

Our Task Now

We must now–right now!–marshal our nation, as the first light of this rising new “Sun” comes into play. Now, with growing confidence and renewed determination, we can dedicate ourselves to the future. Our task, now, is to build out a once again great US productive economy and commensurate skilled and cultured workforce that prepares the way to realizing this now proven potential. A fusion energy economy, as Dr. John Nuckolls of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lyndon LaRouche, and others foresaw, is now our nation’s future. Lyndon LaRouche founded the Fusion Energy Foundation in 1974, which led the fight for the development of fusion energy.

That future is close at hand. Fusion, along with the Trump-initiated Artemis program—taking us back to the Moon, Mars, and beyond— embodies the content of a 2024 Donald Trump presidency. Our prospects can and must fire the imaginations of our youth! As LaRouchePAC is now delineating with Project Prometheus, now we must go nuclear! and ditch, once and for all, the Biden collective’s desperate efforts to appear to support nuclear and fusion power while they drive us into a Malthusian green/brown Hell. We are about to begin building hundreds and hundreds of fission nuclear power plants, as the key driver in rebuilding the entire US industrial and manufacturing economy, and a truly humane culture, preparing us to leap to the next platform embodied by fusion energy. 

There can be no waiting on the sidelines. No toleration of green agendas and corrosive nay-saying.

The December 5th Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Experiment

We must be clear that we have opened the door onto a New World. The potentials are profoundly real, and LaRouche PAC will be developing the implications in a series of articles and videos. Fusion energy opens up to our nation and humankind an almost unlimited source of energy, embodying entirely new levels of potential energy flux density with which to drive economic development and our continued exploration of space-time, energy and matter. This also embodies our enduring national capacity, as the City on the Hill, for all of humanity.

Word is now sweeping the world that on December 5, 2022, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s fusion experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of laser energy to its tiny target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output, demonstrating for the first time anywhere on earth—net energy gain—more energy out than in. This was Einstein’s E=MC2 in action—mass converted into a “geyser” of energy. Isotopes of Hydrogen (Deuterium and Tritium or D-T for short) fused to create Helium and release neutrons and an enormous amount of energy. This was a successful proof-of-principle experiment, building upon work spanning six decades.

In the course of 2020 and 2021, four LLNL fusion energy experiments with new designs had already achieved “burning plasma.” A burning plasma is one in which the fusion reactions themselves become the primary source of heating in the plasma, sustaining and propagating the burn, and thus enabling “high energy gain.” A continued release of high energy neutrons is triggering further D-T fusion reactions at a rate faster than the explosion outwards of energy can otherwise cool the shutdown of the reaction—a self-sustaining process.

The LLNL-NIF “shot” on December 5, 2022, carried us further—producing “net energy gain” from the burning plasma. That is more energy out than in, the production of net energy.

First, we must grasp that this was a crucial science experiment—not a design for a commercial power plant, but a proof of principle. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) was built for a purpose: to study the ignition of thermonuclear devices, and energy efficiency was not the priority.

Much More Potential Still To Be Realized

Further, note that the successful December 5th “shot” triggered just 4% of the energy potential contained in the targeted Deuterium-Tritium fuel capsule, a capsule no bigger than one-half the size of a BB pellet. Stay tuned. As well, the efficiency of NIF’s 192 lasers largely utilize 1980s and 1990s laser technology, as the NIF laser system was commissioned in 2001. (The National Ignition Facility (NIF), became fully operational in March, 2009.) Our lasers today, in 2022, are some 20 times more efficient. LLNL scientists and engineers also report that they worked around target capsule flaws “with laser enhancements and a thicker target,” effectively “coupling” the energy to the hot plasma. Targets will now be easier to produce. Further, there are a multitude of different approaches to inertial confinement.

Make no mistake; this is as challenging as rocket science. The NIF is not only the world’s highest-energy laser, it's also the largest optical instrument ever built. The successful December 5th “shot” was profound science at work—in this case in the microcosm—as laser settings of 5 trillionths of a second and discrepancies of 25 trillionths of a second were under debate. For each NIF experimental shot a comprehensive suite of optical, X-ray and nuclear diagnostics measure key aspects of the implosion performance, and supercomputers aid in the processing of enormous amounts of data. The reaction occurs in less time than it takes light to travel one inch! Since the first laser was demonstrated in 1960, scientists and engineers have explored the use and development of the new laser tool. And it is at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, in Livermore, CA, that the use of the laser as a tool in the development of inertial confinement fusion has been pioneered, led by the visionary physicist John Nuckolls.

Inertial Confinement Versus Magnetic Confinement Fusion: A Brief Overview

Fusion research has been otherwise centered on magnetic confinement, a technique in which powerful magnetic fields confine fusion fuel, such as the Deuterium and Tritium isotopes of Hydrogen, as a plasma inside toroidally-shaped machines such as the tokamak. However, the second major pathway to achieving fusion is inertial confinement fusion (ICF), as we have seen with the December 5th LLNL development in which an extraordinary amount of energy is applied to a tiny pellet of Deuterium and Tritium to implode it to the point of fusion. Scientists everywhere, the scientists at the December 12th technical briefing emphasized, “want to maximize pathways to success.” To build commercial power plants, all agree that designs have to be simple, high volume, and robust.

The Future Determines the Present! 

The entire world is going to be profoundly shaken by the developments of December 5, 2022, here at National Livermore  Laboratory. This is a light that will not be hid under a bushel basket!  Fusion research has been ongoing around the world, with a wave of major developments underway. Already, in the first half of 2022:

  • On Sept. 5, 2021, for the first time, project leaders at MIT and startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) ramped up a large high-temperature superconducting electromagnet to a field strength of 20 tesla, the most powerful magnetic field of its kind ever created on Earth. Commonwealth’s D-shaped magnet is packed with 165 miles of superconducting tape. It is projected that it will produce up to 10 times the energy it consumes. MIT and the school's “spinout” firm, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, broke ground on a new facility in December, 2021 and the device will take about four years to complete. On May 10, 2022, the two parties also signed a five year agreement on collaboration.
  • The Joint European Torus (JET) in the UK, a Tokamak reactor design, doubled its 24-year-old record with a five-second, high-power pulse, limited only by the experimental hardware and not the plasma stability. On February 9th, they reported that they had generated the highest sustained energy pulse ever created by fusing together atoms, more than doubling their own record from experiments performed in 1997. JET’s tokamak produced 59 megajoules of energy over a fusion “pulse” of 5 seconds—more than double the 21.7 megajoules released in 1997 over around 4 seconds.
  • Already in early 2022, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California had achieved an energy yield eight times higher than its previous record and had reached the cusp of ignition, providing us with the second fusion approach to have physics performance comparable to the tokamak.
  • China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) smoked records with sustained “steady-state plasma operation”for 17 minutes at 156 million degrees Fahrenheit—five times hotter than the sun. EAST is a trillion dollar (equivalent) project.
  • Then in September, South Korea’s KSTAR reactor reached and held a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius for a full 30 seconds, confirming results they had less-formally reported back in 2020.

As well, private start-up efforts for commercial fusion are also growing rapidly. In 2021, the private sector invested over $2.5 billion in fusion technology development (with the overwhelming majority focused on US fusion companies). In 2022, before the December 5th LLNL announcements, that figure had grown to $5 billion. Of the more than 30 fusion companies in the world, two-thirds are based in the US, and most were founded in the last decade.  US government action on fusion will certainly fuel a national commitment to combine private efforts and public efforts to develop fusion.

On Fusion, In Conclusion:

In 2014,  Lyndon LaRouche distilled a US economic recovery program,The Four New Laws to Save The U.S.A. Now! NOT AN OPTION: AN IMMEDIATE NECESSITY.” It is essential reading. It starts with enactment of Glass-Steagall bank reregulation, the creation a National Bank from which you can issue credit, and then the use of national credit for great projects such as fission power plants, and small modular fission reactors, great water projects, and high-speed rail—all building up the productivity of the nation.

LaRouche’s fourth law is entitled, “Adopt a Fusion-Driver ‘Crash Program.’” This fourth New Law presents a science-driver policy. As with the Manhattan Project, and John F. Kennedy’s NASA Apollo project, LaRouche called for a crash program for a revival of the space program and fusion power—controlled thermonuclear power. He writes in part,

…The knowable measure, in principle, of the difference between man and all among the lower forms of life, is found in what has been usefully regarded as the naturally upward evolution of the human species, in contrast to all other known categories of living species. The standard of measurement of these compared relationships, is that mankind is enabled to evolve upward, and that categorically, by those voluntarily noëtic powers of the human individual will.

Except when mankind appears in a morally and physically degenerate state of behavior, such as within the cultures of the tyrants Zeus, the Roman Empire, and the British empire, presently: all actually sane cultures of mankind, have appeared, this far, in a certain fact of evolutionary progress from the quality of an inferior, to a superior species. This, when considered in terms of efficient effects, corresponds, within the domain of a living human practice of chemistry, to a form of systemic advances, even now leaps, in the chemical energy-flux density of society’s increase of the effective energy-flux-density of scientific and comparable expressions of leaps in progress of the species itself: in short, a universal physical principle of human progress...

It is for these reasons that nuclear energy—fission and then fusion—will cost us less than nothing.

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