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Scientists finally achieve ‘holy grail’ of nuclear fusion power

‘We are witnessing a moment of history,’ says one physicist

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 13 December 2022 15:27 GMT
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Scientists achieve historic fusion ‘ignition’ to produce ‘near-limitless’ clean energy

Scientists have announced a major breakthrough with nuclear fusion power, achieving a net energy gain for the first ever time.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California confirmed the news of fusion ignition on Tuesday, marking a significant milestone towards realising near-limitless clean energy.

Nuclear fusion mimics the natural reactions occurring within the Sun, and has been a goal of scientists around the world since the 1950s. The process has been hailed as the “holy grail” of clean energy, as it is almost limitless, requires no fossil fuels, and leaves behind no hazardous waste.

LLNL scientists achieved the feat of fusion ignition, also known as scientific energy breakeven, at the National Ignition Facility on 5 December, blasting hydrogen plasma with a massive laser in order to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction.

During the experiments, researchers said they were able to produce 2.5 megajoules of energy from 2.1 megajoules of energy used to power it, producing a 120 per cent net gain.

LLNL described the successful fusion ignition experiment as “one of the most significant scientific challenges ever undertaken by humanity”, with profound implications for the future of the planet.

“We celebrate this historic achievement with our scientific, academic, and industrial partners,” the lab said in a statmenet.

“Reaching ignition unlocks unprecedented capability to support the US Stockpile Stewardship Program, underscores US leadership in science and technology, and enables the next steps toward clean fusion energy for the future.”

Scientists that were not involved in the experiment praised the experiment as one of the most important important fusion breakthroughs ever achieved.

“We are witnessing a moment of history: controlling the power source of the stars is the greatest technological challenge humanity has ever undertaken,” said Physicist Arthur Turrell, who was not involved in the research.

“This experimental result will electrify efforts to eventually power the planet with nuclear fusion – at a time when we’ve never needed a plentiful source of carbon-free energy more.”

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