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Lawrence Livermore Lab to Announce Progress on Fusion Power

No, we don’tgot to have the oil” and boost leaky pipelines as “a price we just have to accept“. Nuclear fusion power is coming:

The Financial Times reported Sunday that scientists in the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) had achieved a “net energy gain” from an experimental fusion reactor.

That would represent the first time that researchers have successfully produced more energy in a fusion reaction — the same type that powers the Sun — than was consumed during the process, a potentially major step in the pursuit of zero-carbon power.

Energy Department and LLNL spokespeople told AFP they could not comment or provide confirmation regarding the FT report, but said US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm would “announce a major scientific breakthrough” on Tuesday.

The LLNL spokesperson added that their “analysis is still ongoing” [“U.S. Teases ‘Major’ Science News Amid Fusion Energy Reports,” VOA News, 2022.12.12].

Nuclear fusion—mashing together hydrogen atoms to make helium and energy—beats the pants off nuclear fission—splitting uranium or plutonium atoms—and other conventional energy sources for multiple reasons:

  1. Fusion produces four times as much energy as fission and four million times as much energy as chemical reactions (e.g., burning coal, oil, gas…). A tank of hydrogen that would fit in your pickup truck would provide more energy than two weeks’ worth of Keystone pipeline oil.
  2. Fusion doesn’t emit greenhouse gases; it emits helium, which is funuseful, and inert.
  3. Fusion produces no long-term radioactive waste.
  4. Fusion doesn’t use nuclear fuel that terrorists can swipe to make fission bombs or dirty bombs.
  5. Fusion reactors won’t melt down. If the power goes out or something else goes wrong, a fusion reactor just shuts down. Even if the Russkies bomb a fusion reactor, we won’t get a Chernobyl-style plume of radioactive death spreading across the continent.

President Joe Biden recognizes the advantages we could get from fusion power:

The US breakthrough comes as the world wrestles with high energy prices and the need to rapidly move away from burning fossil fuels to stop average global temperatures reaching dangerous levels. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration is ploughing almost $370bn into new subsidies for low-carbon energy in an effort to slash emissions and win a global race for next-generation clean tech [Tom Wilson, “Fusion Energy Breakthrough by US Scientists Boosts Clean Power Hopes,” Financial Times, 2022.12.11].

Keep your ears open for tomorrow’s press conference from Secretary Granholm!


  1. sx123 2022-12-12 08:19

    Good ole Dr. Lawrence, from South Dakota.

  2. Donald Pay 2022-12-12 09:10

    Big waste of money, which should be going into soar power.

  3. Edwin Arndt 2022-12-12 09:39

    Don’t get too excited, Cory. It won’t be next week or next month or next year,
    but maybe sometime in your lifetime. I rather doubt it will be in my lifetime.

  4. P. Aitch 2022-12-12 09:45

    Get excited, Cory. Don’t listen to an old German, anti-change pessimist from up near North Dakota.
    Mashing things together almost always creates more positive results than cutting things apart.

  5. Donald Pay 2022-12-12 10:07

    Edwin is pessimistic, but I’m even more pessimistic. You can do a lot of things in the lab or in small scale, that can never happen when you have to scale it up. For one, tritium seems to be a limiting factor in scaling up. Maybe they can find a way around that little detail, but it ain’t gonna even be in Cory’s lifetime.

  6. Edwin Arndt 2022-12-12 10:17

    I prefer to think of myself as a realist.

  7. All Mammal 2022-12-12 10:54

    Never hurts to be a dreamer. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it”, says Maya Angelou. Imagination and manifestation are reality. Our collective thoughts will do the job we need. Close your eyes and meditate (breathe in and out) while picturing what you like for a couple minutes a day. It is impossible it won’t happen. Philippians drops the dime on this as the secret to Jesus’s abilities to perform miracles. We should all be able to do anything a guy can do. Ask David Blane. As for this dreamer, I am glad to have something to focus energy on that isn’t morbid and dismal, because thats why reality sucks. We all can’t stop creating the droll future with our energy put into crappy thoughts. Just give it a whirl. Can’t hurt ya. Promise. We get what we put our energy into.

  8. John 2022-12-12 12:48

    In addition to fusion likely contributing to big monopolistic over-charging utilities complete with brittle and fragile systems and distribution – it is not the future of dispersed power production and local distribution. Ideally power must be produced where its consumed. Glance at the steel plant in Colorado that uses on site / near site solar. Fusion may fit the bill if its made residential or neighborhood size – as is the thrust for fuel cells.
    Then there are these neighborhood examples producing power where its consumed:
    Sticky, paywall link, but available with a free subscription to Bloomberg Green:

    “A longtime bakery owner in central Puerto Rico, Miriam Sierra never imagined she’d also become one of her town’s largest electricity suppliers. 
    But on a recent weekday, the 51 solar panels on her roof in the small town of Castañer were feeding a bank of industrial batteries and inverters inside a beauty salon across the street. From there, the electricity was flowing to the US Post Office, an ice cream parlor, a private residence and an electric vehicle charger. 
    When the power goes out in Castañer — which can happen three or four times a week — the properties connected to its microgrid become a lifeline for the town of 6,000. During one recent blackout, a man ran an extension cord from his solar-powered restaurant to his neighbor’s oxygen machine. The owner of the ice cream parlor keeps a power strip on his porch so locals can charge their phones. 

    Before the microgrid went into service in May, constant outages and voltage fluctuations forced Sierra, 53, to repair or replace her industrial coolers two to three times a year, she says. She’s thrown away more bread dough and rotten food than she can remember. 
    Puerto Rico, a US territory of 3.2 million people, has some of the most expensive and least reliable electricity of anywhere in the country. Hurricane Maria in 2017 decimated its already fragile power grid, leaving parts of the island in the dark for almost a year. Castañer went without power for eight months. Luma Energy, a US-Canadian consortium, took over grid management from the bankrupt public power company last year, but frequent outages are still a fact of life. 

    With 121 solar panels spread across three rooftops, the Castañer microgrid is an experiment in producing resilient, renewable and cost-efficient energy. And it’s likely to become a model: The federal government has earmarked $1.3 billion to develop more microgrids across Puerto Rico. The White House also recently asked Congress to appropriate $3 billion for grants to low-income households in the territory to install solar and battery systems. 

    Building out the microgrid is Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña (the Hydroelectric Cooperative of the Mountain). It provides the solar panels and batteries for free and users like Sierra pay a fixed rate for the service. “What hammers these businesses that are operating on margins of 5 or 10% is energy costs and fuel surcharges,” said CP Smith, the co-op’s executive director. “By providing a flat fee, we eliminate those risks.”
    Puerto Rico’s power woes have made the island a petri dish for survival strategies. As electricity costs have soared and grid breakdowns continue, the use of solar panels, battery backups and generators has exploded. But the shift threatens to leave behind poor communities like Castañer that don’t have the resources to generate their own power, says Smith.

    On the US mainland, most utilities are interconnected, so when a power plant fails in Georgia, juice can be pumped in from South Carolina. But Puerto Rico — which sits more than 1,000 miles from Key West — has to fend for itself.
    In April, when a fire broke out at a single substation, it knocked out power to the entire island. In September, Hurricane Fiona clipped the southwestern tip of the territory and the grid went dark again.
    Microgrids not only add a layer of redundancy to the system but are an effective way to pull in more renewable energy — critical if Puerto Rico hopes to hit its goal of using 100% green energy by 2050, said Shay Bahramirad, Luma Energy’s senior vice president of engineering, asset management and capital programs. 
    “This is all about enabling renewables and creating resiliency,” she said. “So we are quite excited about the growth of third-party microgrids in Puerto Rico.”
    The Castañer initiative is still facing growing pains. When Fiona hit, causing the island-wide blackout, the cooperative didn’t realize that an out-of-towner had plugged their Tesla into the free EV charging station, depleting the town’s batteries. The lack of sunlight for a few days after the storm meant the system went dark. 
    Even so, the cooperative recently inaugurated a second microgrid in Castañer and has two more in the works.

    Back at the Castañer bakery, Sierra said even the small-scale solutions have been transformative. Now, she rarely notices when the lights go out and the batteries kick in on the microgrid.
    “What we’re doing here makes me proud,” she said. “A lot of people think this is a small town and a boring place, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.””

    A FERC (Fed Energy Regulatory Commission) 2014 study found that taking out 9 of the US’s 55,000 substations would turn off electricity in the US. Incidents from North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest show us that the big utilities cannot be bothered to harden their brittle, fragile systems, or to even put cameras on their sites (as if their sites don’t have power available). The US electric & pipeline infrastructure is more brittle and fragile than are the Ukrainian systems.

  9. All Mammal 2022-12-12 13:09

    John- I like the idea of dispersed energy production closer to where it is consumed. The idea of using our own waste for our personal energy use fits that concept. We produce a lot of waste and it makes sense for it to be directly proportionate to the energy we consume.

  10. P. Aitch 2022-12-12 13:16

    Edwin and Don Coyote ~ There comes a point where you realize some new ideas will never be good enough to bring you off your pessimistic toadstool. Is that your problem or the idea’s?

  11. Arlo Blundt 2022-12-12 13:54

    It’s a very big deal. Let us move forward. I’m certain there will be numerous issues, but the promise of fusion is to be free of fossil fuels.It’s development should not inhibit solar energy progress. Fusion will take a generation or two.

  12. Edwin Arndt 2022-12-12 14:23

    Fusion will take a generation or two. Yeah, sort of what I said.

    P. Aitch, apparently you’re spending time around Porter Lansing. His
    lack of respect for Germans is reprehensible. You must guard against it,
    lest it infect your entire being.

  13. Edwin Arndt 2022-12-12 14:47

    In the late 1980’s, scientists at the University of Utah announced with appropriate fanfare that they had sustained
    cold fusion (nuclear fusion). Upon careful scrutiny it simply wasn’t so. You can google this.
    As an old guy who has seen some great hopes evaporate into thin air, I have
    learned to contain my enthusiasm.

  14. larry kurtz 2022-12-12 14:56

    The US Air Force Research Lab in Albuquerque has been using Magnetized Target Fusion for a couple decades to create and bottle plasma.

    Budget, schmudget: when you have more money than god you can can build anything.

  15. larry kurtz 2022-12-12 15:06

    When he was a US Senator, Harry Reid saw human built aircraft at Area 51 that would impress even little green men.

    In 2011 Fresh Air’s Terry Gross interviewed Annie Jacobsen who described the events leading up to the creation of Area 51. Jacobsen had done numerous interviews of her own including one with an eyewitness to the extraction of the deceased preteen pilots who had been surgically altered by Stalin hire, Josef Mengele to look like extraterrestrials after a vectored thrust aircraft crashed near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.

  16. P. Aitch 2022-12-12 15:14

    Edwin: Having grown up in Watertown the “stubborn old German men from Sisseton” were a public joke in the bars and restaurants. They’d come down from the North spreading their negative verbiage so often it became a trademark of your region. So, it’s not just me Ed. It’s you, buddy.

  17. Edwin Arndt 2022-12-12 15:24

    Merry Christmas to you too, P.
    I guess you are already infected.
    Sorry I didn’t warn you sooner.
    Some of those Germans north of Sisseton
    have done pretty well, in spite of their

  18. DaveFN 2022-12-12 15:55

    Will eagerly await how Granholm, Prabhakar, the National Nuclear Security Administration and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory pitch this to the public tomorrow. And what critical questions come from the press. Hopefully they are better than some of the commenters on DFP would bring to the table, commentators who obviously have too little if any scientific knowledge to know the scope and limitations of the physical world in which they live and move and have their being.

    Even the University of Utah Pons-Fleishman cold fusion announcement of 1989 sounded great in the news. A good $40 million was spent until the fraudulent nonsense finally went unfunded in 1998. Being a “dreamer” is fine if you have the resources to finance it: the fraudulent can laugh all the way to the bank before they leave town.

    Which in no way makes tomorrow’s impending announcement fraudulent. But neither does it make it commercially viable, and certainly not immediately so, and Edwin and Donald are well aware of.

    I’m with Edwin: he’s a realist and that is what necessarily constrains any scientific endeavor. News flash: Facts do keep things from existing. Science ain’t creative writing a la (as much as I am able to admire the writings of science sociologist Bruno Latour for whom science is a construction howbeit within constraints man does not control). As far as ” Imagination and manifestation are reality,” how many days has All Mammal spent in a science labortory?

    Calling Edwin a “stubborn old German man” is a racist and ageist putdown and would best be eliminated from the discourse on DFP, however prevalent it may be in Watertown where also should be eliminated. It’s sickening every time it comes up and it’s come up too often. I dare say some with the middle name Harding have their own German ancestry; can you say Rogenbuck?

  19. Edwin Arndt 2022-12-12 16:34

    DaveFN, thanks for the support.
    I will cheerfully admit to being a stubborn old German man, at
    least in the spirit of the season. Kind of a badge of honor.
    Porter, oh, I mean P., has a right to vent his frustrations.
    At least in the spirit of the season.

  20. P. Aitch 2022-12-12 16:44

    @DaveFU … FU

  21. cibvet 2022-12-12 17:32

    Only a very small minded person would use a putdown question such as “how many days has All Mammal spent in a science labortory?” without asking the person themselves. Seems someone else is guilty of the same “racist and ageist putdown” you are also guilty of doing.
    Naysayers will always be with us, but it is people with imagination who are the progressives of the planet. When plans finally come together and work, the cynics always reply ” I knew it all the time”.

  22. Mark Anderson 2022-12-12 18:25

    Well it’s just another case of science coming to the rescue. Democrats always rescue those Republicans don’t they? It could end up like the Man in the White Suit from 1951 but it’s definitely going to happen. How they can keep the intense heat from melting everything nearby is a rather huge problem. It is hotter than the center of the sun. Now if those oil companies can latch on to producing it, it will happen very quickly. Maybe before they complete that super long narrow mirrored city in Saudi Arabia.

  23. grudznick 2022-12-12 19:03

    We need the top two scientific minds of this blogging place, the only two scientists with more recognition than grudznick, to weigh in on this. That would be Dr. McT and Mr. Gibilisco. What sayeth they on this witch-like magic perpetual motion?

  24. All Mammal 2022-12-12 20:16

    Gee, DaveFN-you sound just like the debbie downers from back when I was working in Alexander Graham Bell’s lab. They too said I was absurd when I suggested the possibility of talking to someone who wasn’t there. Relax, cactus. I suggest reading The Universe and Dr. Einstein by Lincoln Barnett. Dr. Einstein was a dreamer. As for manifestation, I didn’t come up with it. I read about it in a quantum physics book. You know, Dr. Einstein used to say: “Smart motheruckers sound like crazy motheruckers to stupid motheruckers.”

    Mr. Anderson- the heat can be beat with the simplest invention called Starlite. Mix Elmer’s school glue and baking soda and you have some amazing material. Btw, it was invented by a hair dresser/amateur chemist.

    I love you, cibvet!

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-13 05:50

    Edwin, I am extremely excited that we may see viable fusion power in my lifetime. We all should be, as fusion can bring an economic and environmental revolution.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-13 05:55

    The comparison with the 1989 cold fusion flop is inaccurate. The professors themselves jumped out with the hopeful announcement, and their claims did not withstand scientific scrutiny. In this case, researchers are getting support from federal officials in their announcement, suggesting they have firmer data. Plus, cold fusion was literally magic in a bottle, a wild new approach from left field. The advance Lawrence Livermore is talking about is a logical step in conventional fusion research.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-13 06:33

    Maybe we do need belt and suspenders: fusion power charging the world backed up with dispersed power production, as John advocates, to protect us against terrorist disruptions to the grid like that foisted by the shooters in North Carolina last week. But if we keep sensibly investing in infrastructure as President Biden and the Democrats have done, we can have a robust national grid that shares power from big clean sources like fusion.

  28. larry kurtz 2022-12-13 06:39

    In 2063 the Vulcans will witness Zefram Cochrane breaking the warp barrier with the fusion-powered ICBM-turned-Phoenix before dilithium is discovered on Earth.

  29. P. Aitch 2022-12-13 13:45

    Good for you, Cory. A bit of friendly advice. Don’t ever move back to South Dakota. Colorado would welcome you. Social liberals with a fiscal conservatism are who built our “actual” national, top ten economy. Odds are your daughter will move here before you and Erin do. Probably with a college scholarship at Denver University or Colorado College in the Springs.

  30. All Mammal 2022-12-13 16:17

    And what P. Aitch said.

    DaveFN- won’t you please show me a demonstration or any laboratory* study that can disprove the placebo effect? I suspect the ‘facts are whats keeping those from existing’. Until you whip those facts up, the “imagination and manifestation” will remain the generally accepted “reality”. Look into the ‘scope and limitations of the mental world in which you live and move and have your thoughts and being’. You may find it is wide open and only hindered by your FEAR of fraud and whatever else scares you from throwing resources at your dreams to make them reality. Other than fear, I’m not sure why suggesting people to try to focus energy on how to align their ideal world with reality, rather than concentrating on negativity, makes you diss DFP commenters and ask everyone about my laboratory* work. Lab work is fine, but I’m not much of a poindexter, I prefer to work in the field. Fear is an impediment

    Btw- dismissing people you are unable to understand with contempt is the very reason we are mired in staleness. Ideas outside your comfort zone might complement your own unrealized ambitions. Cooperation will get us to our mutual goal more quickly. We’re on the same team, brother. Lastly, we can figure out a way to use waste to produce energy. How do you think we burned fires on the Great Plains without trees for fuel before the white man slaughtered the bison? We burned their waste, aka buffalo chips.

  31. Donald Pay 2022-12-13 17:02

    Cory, the problem with your belt and suspenders approach is that there is not enough time and capital to do everything and avoid the ever increasing problem of climate change. I mean that’s assuming any of this stuff will even work at some point decades or centuries in the future. The people behind all this fission and fusion nonsense don’t want to solve the climate problems, as much as they want to make money on centralized approaches (that they control, of course). I mean how much government subsidies have already gone into fusion over decades? With all that effort on wind and solar, we would have been able to retire all the coal plants by now.

  32. cibvet 2022-12-13 17:41

    There were a lot of people who fought for the horse over the combustion engine and, of why would we go to the moon, also who in the world needs a computer! It is all progress and without progression the humans on this planet die off. The other animals will do just fine without us.

  33. P. Aitch 2022-12-13 18:35

    Nearly 200 lasers fired at a tiny bit of fuel to create a gain in energy, mimicking the power of the stars.
    “This lays the groundwork,” says Tammy Ma, a scientist at LLNL, in a US Department of Energy press conference today. “It demonstrates the basic scientific feasibility.” – Popular Science

  34. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-13 19:28

    Donald, I don’t know if I can accept the idea that there’s some fatal trade-off between fusion R&D and climate change action. The two kinda go hand in hand: We have to study the climate and ways to use existing technology to survive and mitigate the changes we are wreaking on the climate, but we also have to develop the energy tech necessary to power the world without any fossil fuels or other greenhouse-gas-emitting energy sources. And who’s to say that the research we do now won’t lead to ways to control fusion in small-scale reactors? Back in the 1940s, computers were as big as a house, sprawling electrical beasts that could only be built and operated by big institutions. It was unthinkable to the operators of ENIAC that they would live to see computers of vastly greater power that fit in their pockets.

    Remember: wind comes from solar energy, and all solar power comes from a big fusion reactor in the sky.

  35. Donald Pay 2022-12-13 20:58

    It’s just bad money after bad money. Fusion is a shiny gadget, not a solution. It’s why we’re doomed. Humans tend to go for the fancy gadget, not the easy answer. Going to the moon? Dumb, promoted by the billionaires, just like fusion. A big con.

  36. P. Aitch 2022-12-13 21:10

    Damn, Donald. You need counseling. Your self esteem is dreadful.

  37. All Mammal 2022-12-14 02:03

    Mr. Pay- your suggestion of going with the easy answer, as well as your concern about the haste we need to act on concerning our planet’s fever had me wishing I could come up with something to your satisfaction.

    Will planting trees do it? I mean it. They are accessible, they cool the planet, help soil retain moisture and hinder erosion, they’re awfully beautiful and make good homes for critters, they absorb that carbon and give us oxygen, filter the air, stop desertification, they’re renewable, produce material for tires, molasses, building, food, medicine, and even produce fuel. Plus, trees are free!

    You’re so right. The quick and simple solution is the best solution. Even though I sound like a corny infomercial, I am 100% sincere. I promise to plant a forest. I too have to pull myself out of despair and doom everyday and I’m takin you with me(:

  38. larry kurtz 2022-12-14 18:28

    Fusion in a bottle makes for plasma weapons and propulsion for spacecraft long before it becomes a ground based energy source.

  39. Donald Pay 2022-12-15 14:44

    The Nuclear Information Resource Service, which I have communicated with on nuclear issues for almost 50 years, has an interesting and informative opinion about the so-called “breakthrough.” They think it’s a small scientific step forward that has little importance for nuclear power and climate change. They also point out some proliferation issues involved with fusion research.

  40. grudznick 2022-12-15 14:54

    In the absence of Dr. McT and Mr. Gibilisco, you fellows ought really listen to Mr. Pay. He is a realist with common sense.

  41. P. Aitch 2022-12-15 17:58

    gridznichts giving advice? That’s a good one, Barney.

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