The photo above shows inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s $5 billion National Ignition Facility (NIF), where scientists are getting closer to their goal of creating a controlled fusion reaction by mimicking the interior of the sun inside the hardware of a laboratory.
In the latest incremental advance, reported recently online in the journal Nature, scientists in California used 192 lasers to compress a pellet of fuel and generate a reaction in which more energy came out of the fuel core than went into it.
There’s still a long way to go before anyone has a functioning fusion reactor, something physicists have dreamed of since Albert Einstein was alive. A fusion reactor would run on a common form of hydrogen found in seawater, would emit minimal nuclear waste and couldn’t have the kind of meltdown that can occur in a traditional nuclear-fission reactor.
NIF is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration and does fusion research only part of the time. Usually it is engaged in tests that help scientists understand the processes involved in nuclear weapons explosions.
From article by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, February 12, 2014