Fusion (ICF) has passed a historic milestone.
The Central Laser Facility and STFC heartily congratulate LLNL and NIF on this achievement.
During the foundation of the CLF in the late 1970s, inertial fusion was a prime motivation for the creation of the facility. A large fraction of the research done at the CLF in the 1980s and into the 1990s was oriented towards tackling the challenges of inertial fusion, of which there are many. A number of people who worked on, and at, the CLF (and the associated UK universities) went on to positions in the US ICF programme, and have made contributions there.
The achievement that the NIF has recently announced has been decades in the making, and can be traced back to work in the 1960s shortly after the invention of the laser itself. In the intervening time there have been many efforts and projects to advance ICF. There have been hurdles that have had to overcome on many fronts : plasma physics, target fabrication, and laser design have all played very significant roles in making this possible. These decades of research and development built a strong scientific case for the NIF.
Nonetheless, the idea of being able to explore ignition with the NIF was not a certainty, but was scientific ambition of the highest sort. High fusion yields were not obtained in the first few years of NIF experiments, and the results reported recently have only been obtained after several years of very intense work and refinement by the NIF team.
We can now look forward to the many new possibilities that this opens up, ranging from developing inertial fusion as an energy source through to using this to further discovery science.