US Announces ‘Breakthrough’ on Fusion Energy


The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday that its scientists have been able to engineer a nuclear fusion reaction that produced more energy than it consumed, a landmark achievement in a decades-long search for a way to generate clean and waste-free nuclear power.

The experiment was held at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement

FILE - This undated image provided by the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows the NIF Target Bay in Livermore, Calif.

FILE – This undated image provided by the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows the NIF Target Bay in Livermore, Calif.

The announcement comes at a time when the Biden administration has directed renewed effort and funding to the development of clean power generation, with a particular emphasis on fusion energy. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act contained significant funding for research in the field.

Just because scientists have been able to engineer an energy-positive fusion reaction does not mean that any meaningful changes to the way humans generate power are on the horizon. Experts said that while the work is important, daunting technological barriers remain in the way of systems that could deploy fusion energy at scale.

A long journey

Scientists have long known that when two atoms are fused together to form a new element, large amounts of energy are released. The sun, for example, is essentially an enormous fusion reactor in which superheated particles come together with tremendous force, forming new particles and releasing excess energy as heat.

As long ago as the 1940s, scientists began experimenting with fusion reactors. While they have long been able to generate fusion reactions, until now, those reactions have always required inputs of energy that exceeded the amount they ultimately produced.

The reason a net-positive fusion reaction has been so elusive is in large part because scientists have to generate extreme conditions in the laboratory in order to make the reactions occur. Typically, enormous lasers are used to heat isotopes of hydrogen to temperatures in the millions of degrees Celsius. The resulting plasma is then confined under extremely high pressure, causing the isotopes to come together with enough force that they fuse into a different element, releasing energy as heat when they do.

Enormous engineering challenges

Maintaining equipment that can tolerate such extreme temperatures is extraordinarily difficult, and finding a way to create reactors that can tolerate the stresses involved in the process for long periods of time is one of the many challenges facing researchers in the field.

Ian H. Hutchinson, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that it was important not to read too much into preliminary reports, noting that prior to the official announcement few details of what, precisely, the scientists at the NIF have achieved was known.

“It seems an important scientific confirmation of inertial fusion ignition, but I would hesitate to call it a ‘breakthrough,’” Hutchinson said in an email exchange with VOA. “The NIF program is not aimed at fusion energy production but at understanding fusion explosions. Useful energy production from miniature fusion explosions still faces enormous engineering challenges, and we don’t know if those challenges can be overcome.”

The NIF is most closely associated with the United States’ nuclear weapons program, and its primary purpose is to recreate nuclear explosions on a small and controllable scale, allowing for the maintenance of the country’s nuclear arsenal without the need for destructive full-scale testing.

Benefits of fusion

There are several reasons why scientists have spent so many years in search of a means of making fusion reactors viable sources of energy.

If fusion reactors were to replace fossil fuels as an energy source, it would dramatically reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, reducing one source of global warming.

Unlike fission reactors, which use highly enriched radioactive materials like uranium and plutonium as fuel, fusion reactors can theoretically be fueled by hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, meaning that the fuel supply for a fusion reactor is essentially infinite.

Also, unlike fission reactors, fusion reactors do not produce highly radioactive waste, eliminating the need to safely store materials that will continue to be dangerous, in some cases, for thousands of years.

Finally, despite the extreme conditions under which fusion occurs, fusion reactors are considered to be safer to operate than fission reactors, which must be constantly monitored in order to avoid conditions leading to destabilization and explosion. In the two worst nuclear disasters in history, explosions at nuclear facilities at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986 and at Fukushima in Japan in 2011 forced the evacuation of thousands of people and rendered vast expanses of both countries uninhabitable.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post 6 tips to prevent kidney failure
Next post SBF’s Stanford law professor parents expect his legal bills to wipe them out financially
How Miles Teller Totally Broke Royal Protocol Meeting Prince William and Kate Middleton Mila Kunis Reveals Why She and Ashton Kutcher Don’t Close Bathroom Doors at Home With Kids Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson Were Engaged for 9 Months Before Paternity Lawsuit Selena Gomez Speaks Out About Kindness After Hailey Bieber’s Tell All Interview Shane Warne’s child, Jackson, shares recordings of ‘harmful ladies despising’ powerhouse Andrew Tate: ‘I really do concur with a couple of the things he says’ Kate and William to greet Americans ‘sleeping on the streets’ amid US visit ‘He said “take your bra off”… I was 15’: Supermodel Kate Moss reveals in unflinching detail how she fled a photoshoot in tears after being targeted by fashion industry predator as a teenager How to get early access to the MultiVersus open beta – usnewspress Gunman kills 3 people in Indiana mall shooting, police say Top 10 sizzling sex secrets to Spice Up Your Sex Life Stellantis Announces Termination of Jeep Venture With China’s GAC Memphis police thwart potential mass shooting at arena: Officials 4 dead after argument between 2 groups leads to shooting at north Harris County apartment complex, sheriff says US soprano, offended by blackface, pulls out of Italy opera 10 Top Romantic Getaways in New Jersey Ricky Martin’s Attorney Says Allegations of a Sexual Relationship with His Nephew Are ‘Untrue’ 8 Best Semiconductor Stocks To Buy Amid a Global Chip Shortage : USA Le’Veon Bell Reflects on Lost Season With Steelers in Retirement Post Updates on Tiger Woods from Round 1 of The Open PETE ALONSOI’M DEALING W/ ‘PRETTY BAD PTSD’… Over March Car Crash