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We Have Ignition

December 20, 2022

December 20, 2022

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CWP Blog

By Tim Lerew

Reflections from a Cold War Patriots Spokesperson


“Shot initiation in ten seconds.”

I closed my eyes.

I was standing at a specially created and formed “focal point” where the beams of 192 high powered lasers —together comprising the world’s largest and most powerful high energy laser array—would converge on a pencil eraser sized pellet of deuterium and tritium fuel to create conditions only found in the sun, and a detonating nuclear weapon.

At the invitation of some PhD nuclear physicist friends who attended my church in Pleasanton, California, I was that day on the one square mile “campus” of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), one of 17 national labs supported by the US Department of Energy. During World War II, a military training airport was creating in Livermore, California by paving an entire square mile in concrete so that thousands of new US Navy pilots could be trained; the concept was they could therefore practice takeoffs and landings in any direction, perfecting how to handle aircraft in all manner of crosswinds, such as those found on an aircraft carrier flight deck!

Created on the old airport site in 1952 to meet the urgent needs of the developing Cold War, LLNL and its advanced nuclear research was the brainchild of nuclear physics pioneers Edward Teller and E.O. Lawrence. Indeed, earlier that day I had stood in the modest office maintained by the lab for the use of Dr. Teller, who until his death at 95 years of age in 2003 was a brilliant and tireless advocate for the teaching and application of advanced science for national security and sustainable energy.

That extraordinary day for a technology geek like me as I closed my eyes to imagine what was to come was two decades ago, when the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore was under Its first phases of construction. Now, what I had dreamed then has finally come to pass. On December 5th, 2022, when more than 2 megajoules of laser energy combined to “heat” the tiny deuterium and tritium pellet and release over 3 megajoules of energy—the first time scientists had created a “controlled” fusion reaction that produced more energy than was needed to initiate the event.

The National Ignition Facility is an excellent example of how the investments in science and technology to assure with successful stewardship that America’s nuclear arsenal remains ready and capable, while at the same time advancing cutting edge research into a sustainable energy future via nuclear fusion. Cold War Patriots have made these scientific breakthroughs possible all along the way and can be proud of the many and varied contributions that continue to advance these impressive national security and scientific milestones.

To read more on this achievement, read the NPR article here.