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Chasing Fusion

By John Lippert - 2013-05-03T11:09:30Z

Photograph by Jake Stangel/Bloomberg Markets

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5. Laser Pathways

The chutes housing the NIF's laser pathways converge from all directions inside a 10-story building. Livermore scientists began asking whether lasers could be used to spark a controlled fusion reaction within a few days after their invention in 1960. They're hoping ignition, if they can achieve it, can be repeated often enough to generate affordable electricity. Since ignition would, in effect, be a laboratory-scale thermonuclear reaction, they're also hoping to study it to learn how to keep the U.S. weapons stockpile up-to-date.