Tick, Tick, Boom
November 28, 2011 2:31 PM Subscribe
The National Ignition Facility (and fusion power) has been in the news lately.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse (38 comments total)
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(pdf)In construction since 1997
(wiki) and coming in at slightly more than four times it's original budget, the NIF has always been ambitious. Their goal is to create through small fusion reactions that produce more energy than they consume, opening the door to near unlimited energy. To do this
(pdf), 192 lasers are used to heat a tiny target containing a mix of deuterium and tritium, compressing whole and leading to a massive explosion. The heat given off is used indirectly to boil water and power turbines, in theory giving back more energy than was expended in a single burst.
While the first attempt at creating such a reaction is still a year or so off, the facility was opened in a lovely dedication ceremony in May 2009
, with the staff of "The Big Picture" taking a tour in October, 2010
. Ironically, early funding for the NIF has come from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), not the Department of Energy. While the DOE is involved in fusion research, most of their attention has been focused on magnetics and funding the construction of ITER in France
, expected to be operational in 2019 (wiki
Looking forward, the NIF is already planning on commercial applications, designing the Laser Inertial Fusion Energy (LIFE)
pilot plant for producing 400MW of power at a price of approximately 12c/kWh. LIFE is expected to be operational in 12 years, and has been holding steady at that date for the past three years.
If you'd like, you can also take a virtual tour of the facility