The just-achieved ability to get more energy out of a controlled fusion process than was put into the process is a tremendously positive step in generating power for our economy.
Some questions arise, though, that want answers before this achievement can be brought to actual, economic, widespread fruition.
- What is the efficiency of released energy capture? If the energy actually captured is less than the energy input, the process (so far) wouldn’t seem economically feasible.
- How long did the test last—not so much in terms of time, but over how many hydrogen fuel “pellets” in the stream fed into the process?
- Did the energy budget measured include the energy required to generate, preserve, and deliver to the reaction process those hydrogen “pellets?” Strictly speaking, that’s not ordinarily included in measuring the success of the process itself, but it is important in assessing the end-game economics of the matter (think of the energy budget of a gasoline or battery car when measuring efficiency—those don’t ordinarily include the energy costs of getting the fuel/electricity inputs out of the ground and delivered to a gasoline/recharging station, but they’re important to the overall economics)
Problems to be solved a bit later include emergency shutdown procedures
- Shutting the lasers as gracefully as possible so as to “merely” extinguish the fusion reaction
- Handling the energy release from a failure of the fusion containment process
Still, to repeat, this is a terrific step forward for man-controlled fusion and for energy generation generally.