Extreme Temperature Diary- Monday December 12th, 2022/Main Topic: Has the Fusion Energy Holy Grail Been Found?

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Has the Fusion Energy Holy Grail Been Found?

Dear Diary. This will be the first time that I’ve addressed the prospect for attaining nuclear fusion energy on this blog. A little science background: Fusion energy occurs when atoms of hydrogen are smashed together at very high speeds to attain net positive energy, as happens within the sun. The end byproduct is just helium atoms of gas, which is not a greenhouse gas. If attainable, fusion power can be added to the mix of renewable sources to greatly attain the goal of sustaining our civilization without wrecking our environment.

Researchers will be announcing that they have attained positive amounts of energy from experiments on Tuesday. This was not an easy task since it has taken billions of dollars since the 1950s to achieve. My biggest question is will this effort be scalable in the next decade or so such that fusion energy can significantly be part of energy flowing into electric grids?

Here are more details from the Washington Post:

Fusion energy, the ‘holy grail’ of clean power, a step closer to reality – The Washington Post

U.S. to announce fusion energy ‘breakthrough’

Scientists hit a key milestone in the quest to create abundant zero-carbon power through nuclear fusion. But they still have a long way to go.

By Evan Halper and Pranshu Verma

December 11, 2022

A target pellet inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams entering through openings on either end, seen in an illustration. The beams compress and heat the target to the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion to occur. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory/AP)

The Department of Energy plans to announce Tuesday that scientists have been able for the first time to produce a fusion reaction that creates a net energy gain — a major milestone in the decades-long, multibillion-dollar quest to develop a technology that provides unlimited, cheap, clean power.

The aim of fusion research is to replicate the nuclear reaction through which energy is created on the sun. It is a “holy grail” of carbon-free power that scientists have been chasing since the 1950s. It is still at least a decade — maybe decades — away from commercial use, but the latest development is likely to be touted by the Biden administration as an affirmation of a massive investment by the government over the years.

Huge amounts of public and private funds have been funneled into the fusion race worldwide, with the aim of ultimately manufacturing fusion machinery that could bring electricity to the grid with no carbon footprint, no radioactive waste and far fewer resources than it takes to harness solar and wind power. Beyond the climate benefits, promoters say it could help bring cheap electricity to impoverished parts of the world.

“To most of us, this was only a matter of time,” said a senior fusion scientist familiar with the work of the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where the discovery was made.

Nuclear fusion power inches closer to reality

The development was first reported by the Financial Times on Sunday. It was confirmed by two people familiar with the research, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid getting ahead of the official announcement. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was slated to make the announcement Tuesday at a media event billed as the unveiling of “a major scientific breakthrough.”

The department and the lab declined to comment. A lab official said researchers there are still finalizing their analysis and will not be releasing any official findings before Tuesday.

The science of nuclear fusion relies on smashing two atoms together at incredibly high speeds and transforming the energy from that reaction into electricity that can power homes and offices without emitting carbon into the air or dumping radioactive waste into the environment.

In the decades scientists have been experimenting with fusion reactions, they had not until now been able to create one that produces more energy than it consumes. While the achievement is significant, there are still monumental engineering and scientific challenges ahead.

The Inflation Reduction Act could push climate change tech into the future

Creating the net energy gain required engagement of one of the largest lasers in the world, and the resources needed to recreate the reaction on the scale required to make fusion practical for energy production are immense. More importantly, engineers have yet to develop machinery capable of affordably turning that reaction into electricity that can be practically deployed to the power grid.

Building devices that are large enough to create fusion power at scale, scientists say, would require materials that are extraordinarily difficult to produce. At the same time, the reaction creates neutrons that put a tremendous amount of stress on the equipment creating it, such that it can get destroyed in the process.

And then there is the question of whether the technology could be perfected in time to make a dent in climate change.

Even so, researchers and investors in fusion technology hailed the breakthrough as an important advancement.

“There is going to be great pride that this is something that happened in the United States,” said David Edelman, who leads policy and global affairs at TAE, a large private fusion energy company. “This is a very important milestone on the road toward fusion energy.”

It comes as the Biden administration is prioritizing fusion energy research in its climate and energy agenda. The projects are among the front of the line for the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and grants authorized through the major climate package Biden signed over the summer, called the Inflation Reduction Act.

Over the past several decades, the United States, Russia and various European nations have allocated billions in government dollars trying to master the science, believing that if they could, it would be a boon for the world.

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By Evan Halper Evan Halper is a business reporter for The Washington Post, covering the energy transition. His work focuses on the tensions between energy demands and decarbonizing the economy. He came to The Post from the Los Angeles Times, where he spent two decades, most recently covering domestic policy and presidential politics from its Washington bureau.  Twitter

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By Pranshu Verma Pranshu Verma is a reporter on The Washington Post’s technology team. Before joining The Post in 2022, he covered technology at the Boston Globe. Before that, he was a reporting fellow at the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Twitter


Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, some extreme temperature outlooks, and some precipitation records:

Here is some more global November 2022 climatology:

Here is more climate and weather news from Monday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton… “The Climate Guy”

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