US have announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion thanks to the production for the first time in history of a reaction that generates more energy than is needed to trigger it. A revolutionary step towards unlimited, clean and low-cost energy which in one fell swoop could make it possible to reduce pollution, curb climate change and guarantee the development of the poorest countries.
The results will be officially presented in a press conference by US Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. But it has already been eagerly anticipated by some media around the world. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: "This breakthrough shows that the need to continue investing in nuclear fusion is strong.
We need various approaches to ensure this clean energy in the future, but this shows that stepping up work is worth it and research."
USA: nuclear fusion, clean and unlimited energy
One of the largest lasers in the world was used in the laboratory in California.
The energy produced, about 25 megajoules, was generated thanks to 192 laser beams which in a few billionths of a second hit the inside of a small cylinder containing deuterium and tritium. Unlike the energy from nuclear fission, the one produced in atomic power plants with the dangerous splitting of a heavy nucleus into two lighter ones and the problem of waste, that from fusion reproduces the process that takes place in the stars and in the Sun, with the combination without risks of two light cores in one heavy core.
Hydrogen is used as fuel, which is practically inexhaustible. Two nuclei approach each other until they fuse together at very high temperatures and densities in order to overcome the electromagnetic repulsion. In this way the energy of the reaction is transformed into electricity.
The turning point also confirms the primacy of the USA in scientific research and technological innovation, thanks also to public and private investments without equal in the world. It will take decades to achieve commercial use of clean energy from nuclear fusion after the Californian experiment, said Kim Budil, director of the Lawrence Livermore national laboratory, where the test was conducted.
"There are many significant hurdles, not just scientifically but technologically. This was once the ignition of a capsule but to get commercial fusion energy you need many things. You need to be able to produce many fusion ignition events per minute, and you need a robust system of drive elements to accomplish them.
The researcher predicts that with concerted effort and investment, and a few decades of research into the necessary technologies, we will be in a position to build a power plant. "