U.S. Rep. Don Beyer of Falls Church and Northern Virginia, founder and chair of the bipartisan Fusion Energy Caucus in the U.S. House today celebrated the announcement by the U.S. Department of Energy of the first ever net energy gain and first ever fusion ignition from a human-controlled fusion energy reaction in history. The long-sought breakthrough came in a December 5 experiment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) National Ignition Facility.
“The breakthrough achievement in fusion energy research is a watershed moment in human history. I send my profound congratulations and thanks to all of the scientists and technicians at LLNL and elsewhere, those who supported their work at DOE, and all who contributed to this remarkable moment.
“This experiment marks a huge step forward in humanity’s quest to harness the energy source that powers the stars. Once fully developed, this transformative technology will be regarded as one of the most important scientific advances of the age, comparable to splitting the atom, the invention of the steam engine, and the discovery of fire.
“Fusion is rightly regarded as the holy grail of clean energy. When we learn to develop and deploy it effectively, it can provide virtually unlimited, clean, inexpensive power without the environmental risk of existing nuclear fission plants. The long-term impact on the fight against climate change, the incredible economic potential, and the possibilities for reducing global poverty are hard to overstate.
“After decades of hearing that ‘fusion is always ten years away,’ one of the biggest milestones on the path to fusion has been achieved in 2022. Those of us making the case that the federal government should go all-in on fusion now have a much more powerful argument for ramping up investment to boost scientific research, development, and engineering to realize the promise of fusion and translate the incredible benefits it offers to our civilization.
“This milestone does not immediately end the climate crisis, and we cannot lessen our efforts to fight climate change with policy and conventional technology. Making fusion energy a cornerstone of our electrical grid will require solving major scientific, energy, and infrastructure challenges – a process of many years. But we now have our foot in the door. The Manhattan Project and the development of Covid vaccines showed that remarkable technological advances are possible with vision, focus, and a sense of urgency.
“I am tremendously proud that this advance was achieved in the United States, and will work with my colleagues in the bipartisan Fusion Energy Caucus to redouble Congress’ efforts in support of U.S. leadership on fusion. Congress already authorized – on a bipartisan basis – a major expansion of that work in the CHIPS and Science Act, which so far has not been fully funded. There are many more scientific and engineering challenges ahead, and Congress and the U.S. government must do all we can to build on the progress announced today, and work to deliver on the promise of fusion.”
Beyer is the founder and chair of the bipartisan Fusion Energy Caucus. He has continuously advocated for fusion energy research on the House Science Committee, with his colleagues in Congress, at the White House, in the pages of Scientific American, and elsewhere.
The bipartisan Fusion Energy Caucus and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, on which Beyer serves, helped secure a record $713 million in investments in the Department of Energy’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences for FY22 and $45 million for a new milestone-based public private partnership. They also helped secure fusion funds in the Inflation Reduction Act, and authorized major expansions of the U.S. funding for fusion research in the CHIPS and Science Act.
Beyer founded the bipartisan Fusion Energy Caucus in 2021. The Caucus, which has over 50 members in the House, has a mission to educate Congress about the research and increasing potential of fusion energy, and to build support for research and development.
Beyer has served on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology since taking office in 2015. His Northern Virginia district contains numerous scientific research centers, including the headquarters of the National Science Foundation.