US says nuclear fusion breakthrough ‘will go down in the history books’

The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday announced a monumental milestone in nuclear fusion research: a “net energy gain” was achieved for the first time in history by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. .

“Simply put, this is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century,” Jennifer Granholm, US Energy Secretary, told a news conference, adding that researchers are working on it. for decades.

“It enhances our national security, and the ignition allows us to replicate certain conditions that are only found in the stars and in the sun,” she said. “This milestone brings us closer to the possibility of abundant zero-carbon fusion energy powering our society.”

The impact of the scientists’ work will help US industries nationwide, Granholm said.

“Today we tell the world that America has achieved a significant scientific breakthrough,” Granholm said.

The hope is that it could be used to develop a clean energy source that would end reliance on fossil fuels.

“The day you get more energy than you put in, the sky’s the limit,” American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told CBS News.

nuclear fusion has been considered the holy grail of energy creation that some believe could save humans from extinction. It combines two hydrogen atoms, which then produces helium and a lot of energy.

This is how stars, like our sun, generate energy.

“We know how to fuse atoms together and generate energy. We just haven’t been able to control it,” said deGrasse Tyson, author of “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization.”

Nuclear fusion technology has been around since the creation of the hydrogen bomb, but using this technology to harness energy has taken decades of research.

“They took 200 laser beams, some of the most powerful on planet Earth, converged that energy into a pellet, a pellet the size of a BB,” said theoretical physics professor Dr Michio Kaku. at City College of New York. “And just remember that fusion power has no nuclear waste to speak of, no meltdown to worry about.”

Scientists believe that fusion power plants would be much safer than today’s nuclear fission plants – if the process can be controlled.

It is the goal of a multi-billion dollar multinational project called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which is under construction in the south of France.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm (C) is joined by (L-R) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories Director Dr Kim Budil, National Nuclear Security Administration head Jill Hruby, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Dr Arati Prabhakar and NNSA Administrator Deputy for Defense Programs Dr. Marvin Adams for a news conference at Department of Energy Headquarters to announce a breakthrough in fusion research December 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. / Credit: Getty Images

Currently, nuclear power plants use fission, which breaks atoms apart to produce energy. Even if it doesn’t burn fossil fuel, meltdowns like Chernobyl and Fukushima are proof that our nuclear fission can still harm humans — and our environment.

But now, the time for the merger finally seems to be here.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to have converted something so destructive that it can finally be used for peaceful purposes in the service of civilization,” deGrasse Tyson said.

Granholm said scientists have taken a step that will go far beyond Tuesday’s announcement.

“This is a historic achievement for the National Ignition Facility researchers and staff who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discoveries,” said Granholm, adding that the breakthrough “will go down in the history books.”

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