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New Breakthrough Could Speed Up Nuclear Fusion Development

Scientists and engineers have announced a record-breaking achievement of sustained fusion, which researchers say demonstrates the potential of nuclear fusion power plant designs.

Although nuclear fusion has been long recognized as totally carbon- and by-product-free and the source atoms in hydrogen are abundant on Earth, replicating the Sun's natural processes of fusion energy generation on Earth has been a challenge. That's because this fusion needs to take place at extremely high temperatures that create hot plasma and because researchers have struggled to obtain more energy from those plasmas than the energy input to run them.

Now researchers from the EUROfusion consortium more than doubled previous records at the UK Atomic Energy Authority's Joint European Torus (JET) site in Oxford using the same fuel mixture to be used by commercial fusion energy power plants, the UK government said on Wednesday.

JET produced a total of 59 Megajoules of heat energy from fusion over a five-second period, the duration of the fusion experiment. This is not a large amount of energy, but it validates the design choices for the ITER fusion research mega-project located in France and supported by China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States.

"If we can maintain fusion for five seconds, we can do it for five minutes and then five hours as we scale up our operations in future machines," said Tony Donné, EUROfusion Program Manager.

"For the ITER Project, the JET results are a strong confidence builder that we are on the right track as we move forward toward demonstrating full fusion power," Dr. Bernard Bigot, Director General of ITER, said.

In August 2021, U.S. scientists said they were at the threshold of fusion ignition after achieving a large amount of energy in an experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. 

The amount of energy achieved was still lower than the input energy, but the fact that ignition was achieved for the first time ever is a "momentous step" in nuclear fusion research, scientists say.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Rocky Montagne on February 10 2022 said:
    It sounds promising. Another ten years and this could solve our energy problems!

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