Technology

Nuclear Fusion Achieved

Photo from The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory / Department of Energy Livestream

The U.S Department of Energy has announced one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in recent history on December 13th, 2022. The DOE announced that a team of scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California has achieved stable nuclear fusion ignition for the first time ever on December 5th, 2022. This ignition of fusion was achieved in the lab using lasers to create the powerful reaction.

Nuclear fusion is the process through which hydrogen atoms are fused into helium atoms. Hydrogen atoms collide at such great speeds that they merge to become a single helium atom. This is the same process that occurs within stars in order to keep them burning bright for billions of years.This process also puts out an enormous amount of energy, which is what makes it so important to humans. For those wanting more indepth dive into what nuclear fusion is, be sure to see this write up from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

For the first time in human history the National Ignition Facility has achieved ignition of stable nuclear fusion. This is a goal that the lab has been aiming for since the 1950s.

This comes as a major breakthrough as it means that a clean and unlimited source of energy is now within reach in the near future.

A statement from the National Ignition Lab reads “On Dec. 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone, also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. This first-of-its-kind feat will provide unprecedented capability to support NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and will provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy, which would be a game-changer for efforts to achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy.”

President Biden has an ambitious goal of having commercial nuclear fusion plants built within the next ten years. The DOE however has stated in a livestream of the announcement that “It is going to be a while before we see this commercialized.” While it may be a little while before commercialization, it is still something to look forward to. The Department of Energy has also stated in a Tweet “This breakthrough will change the future of clean power and America’s national defense forever.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nuclear energy has been a subject of controversy. The main concern being the safety of areas that surround nuclear plants. These plants have been using a process known as nuclear fission, which uses a different set of materials and protocols in order to create a clean, unlimited energy source. These plants, however, can melt down and expose areas nearby to extreme amounts of radiation, the most notable example of this happening is the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which went into meltdown on April 26th, 1986.

Despite the dangers that people may see in nuclear energy, it is the only truly unlimited source of energy that we as humans know of. This new breakthrough is viewed by the lab directors as the major building block for the development of a newer safer power plant with better containment chambers aimed at making the process extremely safe and efficient. The announcement of this first ignition is set to launch a new era of energy production for humanity as a whole.

For more information on this developing story you can visit both the Department of Energy’s website at www.energy.gov, as well as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s website at www.llnl.gov

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