Jonathan Fildes, BBC News: When the world’s most powerful laser facility flicks the switch on its first full-scale experiments later this month, a tiny star will be born on Earth.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California aims to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear fusion, the reaction at the heart of the Sun and a potentially abundant, clean energy source for the planet.
But whilst many eyes at the facility will be locked on the goal of satisfying humanity’s energy demands, many scientists hope to answer other fundamental questions for mankind. “In recreating the process of fusion it was always understood that we could pursue three areas of interest and value,” explained Dr Erik Storm of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the home of NIF.
First and foremost, NIF has been built for national security purposes, to study the conditions that exist in nuclear explosions and the way that nuclear weapons perform. “That gives you an ability to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent in the absence of underground nuclear testing,” said Dr Storm.