US scientists make a giant leap in fusion energy

The fusion reaction produces a net gain in energy, says the US government laboratory in the scientific milestone – Shutterstock

It is reported that a major breakthrough in clean energy research is being made by US government scientists at a laboratory in California.

A fusion reaction, conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, produced more energy than the fuel absorbed to create it.

It represents an important milestone in the push to wean the United States and other major economies off carbon-producing fossil fuels, which scientists see as the main driver of climate change.

The energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine has intensified the need for alternative energies.

Earlier this year the Biden administration passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included nearly $370 billion in new low-carbon energy subsidies.

Upon taking office, Biden promised his administration would be a global leader in the race to develop green technology.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Nuclear Security Undersecretary Jill Hruby are expected to announce the breakthrough on Tuesday.

In August of last year, the Livermore lab announced the results of a reaction that released 1.3 megajoules of energy, about five times the 250 kilojoules absorbed by the capsule.

The reaction is produced by bombarding a tiny mass of plasma with light from 192 lasers at the $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility laboratory, initially set up to test nuclear weapons by simulating explosions.

Ms Hruby hailed the results at the time.

“These extraordinary National Ignition Facility (NIF) findings advance the science on which the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) depends to modernize our nuclear weapons and manufacturing,” he said.

“It also offers potential new avenues for research into alternative energy sources that could aid economic development and help combat climate change.”

However, this fell short of the 1.9 megajoule target set by the NIF.

That threshold has been breached in recent weeks by scientists at Livermore, the Financial Times reported.

It is understood that the latest laser reaction produced 2.5 megajoules of energy. The results of the fusion experiment are still being analysed.

Such was the power produced in the fusion experiment that some of the diagnostic equipment was damaged.

The lab remained cautious, as well as describing the experiment as successful.

“The initial diagnostic data suggest another successful experiment at the National Ignition Facility,” he said.

“However, the exact yield is still being determined and at this time we cannot confirm that it is above the threshold.

“That analysis is ongoing, so post the information. . . before the process is completed would be inaccurate.

Fusion reactions produce neither carbon nor long-lived radioactive waste, effectively achieving the holy grail in energy production.

It also allows you to produce large amounts of energy from very little hydrogen fuel.

The inertial confinement fusion technique dates back to the 1970s and simply aims to harness the power found in nuclear weapons to produce energy.

Fusion energy has bipartisan support in Washington.

Earlier this year Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, who initiated the Fusion Energy Caucus, pointed out that the technology was different from that used to produce energy in Fukushima and Chernobyl.

“Melsion is the holy grail of climate change and the decarbonized future,” he told a White House summit.

“Perhaps even more profoundly, the merger has the potential to lift more of the world’s citizens out of poverty than any idea since the fire.”

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