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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Missing Megajoules: Nuclear Fusion Isn’t Ready To Go Commercial Just Yet

  • Headlines were awash with news of a nuclear fusion breakthrough just over a week ago. 
  • The event 9 days back was also an ignition and was noticed as outputting energy in excess of that going in.
    • The facility’s 192 lasers dumped 2.05 megajoules into the target fuel and poured out what the facility measured as 3.15 megajoules.

Early in the morning 9 days ago experimental physicist Alex Zylstra noticed that a target yielded more energy from a fusion reaction ignition than the lasers poured into it at the Lawrence Livermore National Ignition Facility (NIF).

Backing up a bit – the prelude seems to have happened in August of 2021 when the facility achieved a true fusion ignition. Better positioned, that’s saying the facility functioned such that the forces cooling the plasma down weren’t strong enough to swamp the forces heating it up, and the NIF was set up to measure it.

The event 9 days back was also an ignition and was noticed as outputting energy in excess of that going in.

There is a catch in this. The experiment used 300 megajoules of energy. The facility’s 192 lasers dumped 2.05 megajoules into the target fuel. The target fuel ignited and poured out what the facility measured as 3.15 megajoules.

So far the 297.95 megajoules are unaccounted for. This is a problem. It's also politics. The media hasn’t called the facility on it. The missing megajoules might be quite a problem to explain, or not. Leaving it out casts a very dark shadow. One hopes the Due Diligence will be coming.

Perhaps the details were covered in the technical session that was run after the press conference. The video and transcript viewings will have to wait for their publication and may likely need some true expertise commentary before your humble writer could produce a credible post.

Meanwhile, let's not understate the fact that a breakeven fusion event occurred at the hands of humanity. The parameters are drawn really close, but we’re here on a planet, not in the middle of a star. However one calls it, an ignition or breakeven it is a very big deal, indeed.

There is a very long way to go. A 100 fold increase in power input efficiency, repeatability, the materials and methods to capture the net energy, and the experiments, insights and innovation to get to a power plant that is affordable.

Fusion energy research is way farther along than we were just 18 months ago. Fusion energy production can be done, here on earth by human beings. Amazing.

By Brian Westenhaus via New Energy and Fuel

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on December 14 2022 said:
    Nuclear fusion is a technical marvel of spectacular dimensions but it may not become a generator of commercial energy even in the next century if ever.

    The great experiment nine days ago was based on feeding 2.05 megajoules of energy and yielding 3.15 megajiules, an amount of net energy of 1.1 megajoules (equivalent to 0.0001798 of a barrel of crude oil or 54% more energy).

    So how much megajoules will be needed to produce 100 million barrels or one day's consumption of the world?

    It seems that the experiment used 300 megajoules of energy but only 2.05 megjoules were reported to have been used to produce 3.15 megajoules. So what happened to the missing 297 megajoules and how are they accounted for?

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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