Nuclear Fusion: Will It Impact Facility Management?

This major scientific breakthrough proves that scientists can create a clean-energy alternative that can be harnessed for power.

nuclear fusion
Close up of an atomic particle (Photo: Adobe Stock – Ezume Images)

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the DOE’s Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) revealed a major scientific breakthrough in nuclear fusion that opens the door for advancements in clean power. Is there any potential impact on facility management from this development? Perhaps, but it won’t be any time soon.

On Dec. 5, a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history that was able to create “fusion ignition.” Also considered to be a scientific energy breakeven, this experiment produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. It effectively managed to mimic the process that powers the sun.

Unlike nuclear fission, which is the process of splitting atoms, fusion is what happens when two atoms are put together. To put in perspective how powerful nuclear fusion can be, the DOE explains that, “when fusion power becomes a reality, just one gallon of seawater could produce as much energy as 300 gallons of gasoline.”

This experiment’s achievement will provide incredible insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy—a potential game-changer for efforts to create a net-zero carbon economy. Using a relatively small amount of space, this clean-energy alternative does not produce radioactive waste or greenhouse gas emissions. Another advantage of nuclear fusion is that it’s an energy source that doesn’t rely on weather (i.e. solar or wind). While this is an incredible step toward a new clean energy alternative, researchers believe it will take years, and potentially decades, before fusion can be used for commercial applications.

“The pursuit of fusion ignition in the laboratory is one of the most significant scientific challenges ever tackled by humanity, and achieving it is a triumph of science, engineering, and most of all, people,” says LLNL Director Dr. Kim Budil in a statement. “These are the problems that the U.S. national laboratories were created to solve.”

This discovery follows reports that employees are increasing aware of rising energy costs, especially as they work remotely. More organizations are focusing on solutions to tackle clean energy and reduce their energy consumption—both to support the environment and to reduce operating costs. In an effort to address energy usage concerns, states have implemented clean energy laws and made significant efforts to increase their own energy efficiency.

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