While applauding the Livermore team’s findings, fusion experts
added researchers have “a factor of about 100 to go.”
“These results are still a long way from ignition, but they
represent a significant step forward in fusion research,”
said Mark Herrmann of the Sandia National Laboratories’ Pulsed
Power Sciences Center. “Achieving pressures this large, even
for vanishingly short times, is no easy task.”
Livermore is the site of the multi-billion-dollar National
Ignition Facility, funded by the National Nuclear Security
Administration. Fusion experiments aren’t the only function of
the lab; for example, it also studies the processes of nuclear
Long-pursued by scientists dating back to Albert Einstein, fusion
energy does not emit greenhouse gases or leave behind radioactive
waste. Since the 1940s, researchers have employed magnetic fields
to contain high-temperature hydrogen fuel. Laser use began in the
“We have waited 60 years to get close to controlled
fusion,” said, Steve Cowley, of the United Kingdom’s Culham
Center for Fusion Energy. He added scientists are “now
close” with both magnets and lasers. “We must keep at
Stewart Prager – director of the Princeton Plasma Physics
Laboratory, which studies fusion using magnets – told the Post he
was optimistic about fusion energy’s future.
“In 30 years, we’ll have electricity on the grid produced by
fusion energy – absolutely,” Prager said. “I think the
open questions now are how complicated a system will it be, how
expensive it will be, how economically attractive it will
If the past is any evidence, you can probably knock a third off that time estimate. Whice would make it 2034, just about the time that many expect The Singularity to become impenetrable to outside observers like us, today.
Which only makes sense: Such a Singularity is going to take enormous amounts of power, on the order of magnitudes larger than our total power generation and usage today. But we’ll have an enormous variety of options to do that. I expect fusion will be only one of them.
That said, humanity will look back in the future to this achievement as one of the landmarks in human scientific history.