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I was just watching a program on television showing how the method they use at the National Ignition Facility to attempt to achieve fusion is to fire extremely powerful lasers at a small pellet of fuel sitting in a vacuum at the center of a large 10 m diameter sphere. To people familiar with the design of the setup they have there, I ask: what is the mechanism by which they intend to collect the energy that would result when that pellet releases its energy?

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There will be no attempt to utilize the energy released from fusion reactions at NIF. NIF's goal is to demonstrate that a sustained fusion reaction is possible. Such a demonstration is termed "ignition" and there is a good chance it will be achieved within the next three years.

The next step is a project called LIFE which involves a prototype power plant based on the inertial confinement fusion to be achieved at NIF. LIFE's goal is to assess the economic feasibility of such a power plant. LIFE will not be operational until the 2020s at the earliest.

The electrical production mechanism in LIFE would basically be the same as a fission power plant: use the heat from the fusion reaction to evaporate water into steam to power turbines. More specifically, they will use what's known as a Rankine cycle. See .

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"The electrical production mechanism in LIFE would basically be the same as a fission power plant" Or, indeed, a coal plant. – dmckee May 24 '12 at 2:52

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