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Science

Submission + - Is it time for the US government to back fusion at NIF over ITER? (nature.com)

ananyo writes: Laser beams at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) have fired a record 1.875 megajoule shot into its target chamber, surpassing their design specification. The achievement is a milepost on the way to ignition — the 'break-even' point at which the facility will finally be able to release more energy than goes into the laser shot by imploding a target pellet of hydrogen isotopes.
NIF’s managers think that the end of their two-year campaign for break-even energy is in sight and say they should achieve ignition before the end of 2012.
However, with scientists at NIF saying that a $4 billion pilot plant could be putting hundreds of megawatts into the grid by the early 2020s, some question whether the Department of Energy is backing the wrong horse with ITER — a $21-billion international fusion experiment under construction at St-Paul-lez-Durance, France. Is it time for DoE to switch priorities and back NIF's proposals? Or is fusion power doomed to be a source of power that is always 30 years away?

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Is it time for the US government to back fusion at NIF over ITER?

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