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Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough – yet another Government Lie


Today, 12/13/2022, the media is awash with reports from the National Ignition Facility (NIF) that they’ve achieved a fusion breakthrough, that they made more energy than the energy input.  Politicians and scientists who know nothing about fusion are waxing eloquently about the wonderful future of nuclear fusion, a supposedly clean and unlimited source of energy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  This press release is simply more of the BIG LIE that comes from the fusion research community and particularly the NIF.

It’s taken me the better part of a day to dig out hard numbers.

Ars Technica reports that they produced 2.5 megajoules of energy from the laser input of 2.1 megajoules of energy. Here’s where the fraud starts.

The 2.1 megajoules of energy was the energy contained in the laser beams but not the energy needed to generate those laser beams. Through a lot of digging I finally found that the lasers are 8% efficient in converting the electricity from the capacitor discharge to laser light. So 2.1 /.08 = 26 megajoules of electricity was discharged into the laser. 26 megajoules is vastly more than the paltry 2.5 megajoules they claim the fusion reaction produced. This is the BIG LIE!

To put this into more familiar terms, a Joule is a watt-second so 26 megajoules is 26 megawatt-seconds. divide by 3600 to get watt-hours. 7.2E3 watt-hours. 72,000 watt-hours input electrical power from the capacitors.

2.5 megajoules is 2.5 megawatt-seconds or 694 watt-hours. 694/72,000 x 100 = 0.95% efficiency. Not exactly a net positive energy gain. A net positive energy gain would have an efficiency greater than 100%.

I haven’t accounted for the capacitor charging supply, the vacuum pumps and all the other stuff. From the NIF website, the machine consumes 200 megawatts continuously while setting up and then firing a shot. So in an hour, the machine consumes 200 megawatt-hours. So the overall line-to-fusion efficiency is 694/ 2.0E8 = 3.47E-8%.

That is the truthful efficiency, 0.0000000347% efficient and that’s only true if the setup to the shot only takes one hour. As it is, it takes most of a day to set up a shot.

With DT fusion, about 95% of the energy yield is in the form of energetic neutrons. Energetic neutrons destroy materials and make them radioactive.

I’ve built a spreadsheet where I can input the desired fusion power output and it calculates a bunch of stuff such as the number of fusions per second required, the total neutrons, the neutron flux in neutrons/cm^2 at 10cm away, assuming a point source which inertial confinement would be, and a few other things.

Running calcs for 1MW of energy results in the highest neutron flux ever to exist on earth outside an exploding thermonuclear bomb. It will render steel brittle as glass in hours. There are more neutron-resistant alloys but they only delay the nil ductility point out to days.  A few days ago I got into this discussion with a “fusion expurt” on  He claimed that there are materials that are sufficiently resistant to neutrons to survive.  I asked him to name one.  He dropped out of sight.

The neutrons must be absorbed to be converted to useful heat. There is no known substance which can absorb that kind of flux without being destroyed. Water won’t work – neutrons decompose water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

I input 3500 megawatts thermal to the spreadsheet, the output of a nuclear fission reactor to drive a 1200 megawatt generator.  The results are:

1.24E+21 D-T fusions to produce 3500 MW of power.
1.24E+21 neutrons produced
4.47E+24 fusions to produce 3500 megawatt-hours of energy
1.42E+22 neutron density in neutrons per square cm, 10cm away from the point source.
4.96E+14  Shots per second required at the NIF per report on 12/13/2022.
1.79E+18  Shots per hour required at the NIF per report on 12/13/2022.
400  Shots per year the NIF is capable of.
0.0456  Shots per hour the NIF is capable of.

In contrast, a pressurized water reactor at 3500 megawatts using 3.5% enriched fuel produces a neutron flux of 2.4E+13 neutrons per square cm.

The ratio of neutrons produced by fusion vs fission for the same power output is 11.4:1.  This is because a single fission reaction produces vastly more energy than does a single fusion reaction.

If, by some miracle, they could do the billions of shots per hours necessary to make about 3.5 gigawatts to drive a 1200 MWe power plant, the “reactor” would generate more high level radioactive waste via neutron activation than a fission plant, especially the 4th generation molten salt reactors.

It gets worse.

Each shot damages the laser optics to the extent they must be repaired before the next shot. Per the NIF website, AFTER automated repair is implemented (not there yet), the machine can only do 400 shots a YEAR!

They are trying to do deuterium-tritium or DT fusion. This is because the NIF was built to simulate the very beginning of the DT fusion reaction in a thermonuclear bomb. The purpose is to further refine the weapon modeling software so they are closer to designing a complete weapon without actual testing.

This is a dead-end for fusion energy, as are all other approaches. The pellets of D-T can’t be scaled up because of the vastly more laser power required.  The NIF is achieving its purpose of weapons research. Fusion power research was only tacked on for publicity’s sake.

Fusion research is nothing more than scientific welfare.

This is a link to my spreadsheet in case you want to play around with numbers.


Posted by neonjohn on December 13th, 2022 under Nuclear

3 Responses to “Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough – yet another Government Lie”

  1. Dave Says:

    John, sincere thanks for writing this analysis of the fraudlent fusion announcement. When I was in grad school 1976 ish, my prof told us physics students to stay clear of fusion as a career… “for there is no material that can contain a vacuum with the predicted neutron flux.” I followed his advice, and have since retired 3 times… thanks John. Glad you are still alive, kicking and writing good articles.
    All the best, Dave

  2. Mark Borg Says:

    Thank you for an enlightening post. Not a physicist or engineer but I cannot wrap head around how this is ever going to produce worthwhile science, “laser” ignition using 20 year old obsolete lasers seems …. silly. Now to analyse fusion reactions for weaponry, that I can believe. The detector technology to reveal the fusion reaction must be beyond incredible…

  3. neonjohn Says:

    You two are most welcome. I’ve ignored this blog for far too long. I’m going to try to write once a week. Again, thanks.

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