Scientists announce major breakthrough in nuclear fusion research

The U.S. Department of Energy announced a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion research Tuesday morning, which some experts said could change the world.

The announcement comes on the heels of decades of research and billions in investments by the U.S. government to find a way to produce an efficient amount of nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the act of combining two atomic nuclei, which is different from nuclear fission, the type of nuclear activity currently used in plants, which splits atoms apart and leaves behind radioactive nuclear waste.

Last week, scientists in California were able to achieve nuclear fusion for the first time.

“In the end, the laser has exceeded its performance goals, opened whole new areas of science to exploration, and delivered the data we need to keep our nuclear data safe secure, and effective,” Dr. Kim Goodell said, the director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, which made the breakthrough.

The scientists sparked a net energy gain of fusion last Monday, and that could one day be key to creating a clean- sustainable energy source for the world.

“Within the fusion community it certainly is a great day,” Brad Marston said, a professor of physics and director of the Brown University theoretical physics center.

“As long as they get more energy out than they put in, they achieve break-even, which has been the goal for many decades,” Marston added.

The scientists were able to produce a net gain of approximately 1.5 megajoules in the nuclear fusion test, meaning that for the first time ever, the nuclear reaction was greater than the energy used to create it.

“There’s no carbon emitted from the actual fusion reaction, it’s not a greenhouse emitting effect, and you don’t have the same long-term waste issue, and fusion power plants do not have the ability to melt down, they’re not capable of that same type of reaction,” said Doctor David Donovan.

But while the laboratories breakthrough marked a historic day, there’s still a long way to go before nuclear fusion can be a part of day-to-day life, as Dr. Kim Goodell estimates it could still be a few decades before it can be commercialized and be used on a widespread scale through nuclear fusion power plants that will need to be built over the next few decades as the process is continued to be mastered.

“It can run day and night. It doesn’t require sun or wind. It could complement solar power and wind power in being a carbon-free energy source,” Marston said.

 

Categories: News