Confirm that they have taken a fundamental step in making fusion energy useful

Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana

Elhuyar Zientzia

NIF has achieved energy generation higher than that emitted. Ed. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Generation of energy higher than that delivered to the fusion reaction system. It is an indispensable condition for the availability of available fusion energy. And this is confirmed by the US Government. Lawrence Livermore was obtained at the NIF Ignizio Plant at the laboratory on December 5 by inertial confinement.

Fusion energy is the kind of energy that is produced in stars, for example in the sun. The heat of the Sun (1500ºC) and the enormous gravities react the atoms of the hydrogen, which merge into helium. In turn, a lot of energy is released.

They want to do the same reaction as the NIF, efficiently and controlled, to use it as a fuel. The ultimate goal is to be a clean, cheap and inexhaustible energy source. However, achieving the conditions of the Sun on Earth is not easy. They try to get the NIF through inertial confinement.

Inertial confinement consists of heating and compressing two isotopes (deuterium and tritium, both cheap and abundant) of hydrogen to fuse. When they fuse together, a helium atom, a free neutron and a lot of energy form.

The energy needed for this is generated by laser. In fact, NIF is the world's largest high-energy laser installation. It has 192 lasers, being able to generate 100 times more energy than previous receipt systems.

Ignition occurs when more energy is generated than lasers to fuse hydrogen. The NIF started its experiments in 2010, and now they announce that they've gotten 2.5 megajoules, 2.1 megajoules. In other words, they have achieved 120% more energy than the energy delivered.

This is a big step forward, as they have shown that ignition by inertial confinement is achievable. But the amount of energy they have obtained is very small and the energy they have had to provide is excessive. In other words, the road from here to nuclear fusion plants is still very long and complicated.

Magnetic confinement

Magnetic confinement is being used in other laboratories, such as ITER, in parallel with the NIF and for the same purpose (control and efficient procurement of fusion energy). In France, the word Iter is the acronym in International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, while in Latin it means “way”. And there the road is also being long.

In ITER lasers are replaced by magnetic fields to achieve the fusion of isotope hydrogens. Previously, the UK JET laboratory demonstrated that this technology is valid for fusion and ITER’s objectives are ambitious.

In one way or another, the energy produced is clean and the raw materials are virtually inexhaustible. Some radioactive materials are also produced and are no longer radioactive in less than years. And unlike fission, the kind of reaction that is used in nuclear power plants is totally safe. This makes fusion energy so attractive. However, there is plenty of room for experimentally obtaining in the lab and making it cost-effective in the power plants. In other words, the current energy crisis will not be overcome by today’s progress.

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