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US achieves major breakthrough in fusion energy


With the successful induction of a nuclear fusion reaction with a net gain in energy, the kind that powers the sun, in a laboratory, US scientists may have made a significant advancement in the effort to wean the globe off fossil fuels, according to international media.

However, the energy gained from the current experiment is extremely little—possibly only enough to heat ten kettles of water—and it would take years or even decades of development before the technique could be utilized to construct a nuclear fusion power plant that would be economically feasible.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility in California made the discovery.

This was the first instance of fusion reaction that scientists were able to create that produced a net energy gain, making it sustainable. The energy gains from earlier fusion tests were negative or nonexistent.

With the development of the hydrogen bomb in 1952—also referred to as thermonuclear or fusion weapons—uncontrolled nuclear fusion was first made possible. Since then, researchers have been working to replicate it in a controlled, long-lasting manner.

To produce fusion, two Hydrogen-derived Deuterium and Tritium atoms are fused together to form a single Helium atom. Heat in the form of neutrons and alpha particles, which can be exploited as energy, is a consequence of this reaction.

Nuclear fission, which is the splitting of a uranium or plutonium atom to release energy, is distinct from this. Nuclear reactors are currently powered by nuclear fission all over the world. Additionally, fusion would not result in nuclear waste or the dangers associated with nuclear reactor meltdowns like those at Chernobyl or Fukushima, which are significant drawbacks of fission reactors.

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