Will the fusion breakthrough ignite a Congressional chain reaction?

Department of Energy announced a breakthrough in the decades-long quest to recreate on Earth the process that powers the Sun: nuclear fusion. To simplify slightly, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California recently fired a bunch of lasers at a piece of hydrogen. The lasers used 2.05 megajoules of energy to hit the hydrogen. The resulting reaction produced 3 megajoules of energy.

For the first time in the history of fusion research, scientists achieved ignition — more energy was produced by the reaction than was used to create it. Here in Washington, and the world of politics, no elected official was as excited about these results as Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Beyer is the former lieutenant governor of Virginia and was an ambassador in the Obama administration. A few years ago, Beyer became consumed with the promise of fusion. How it could become a cheap and plentiful alternative to fossil fuels. How it could solve the climate crisis.

In this episode of Playbook Deep Dive, host Ryan Lizza joins Congressmember Beyer to explore the policy and politics of this big scientific breakthrough. Is it the turning point we’ve been promised for decades, or will it once again lead to the same dashed expectations that have long-characterized the history of fusion research?

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