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How long until this Nuclear Fusion breakthrough can help power your house ?

Washington: For the first time in history, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain. The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough on Tuesday.

The result of the experiment is a massive step in a decades long quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers for decades have attempted to recreate nuclear fusion replicating the energy that powers the sun.

Scientists around the world have been studying nuclear fusion for decades, hoping to recreate it with a new source that provides limitless, carbon-free energy – without the nuclear waste created by current nuclear reactors. Fusion projects mainly use the elements deuterium and tritium – both of which are isotopes of hydrogen.

The deuterium from a glass of water, with a little tritium added, could power a house for a year. Tritium is rarer and more challenging to obtain. However, it can be synthetically made. Unlike coal, hydrogen occurs widely, from water to outer-space so the stuff that generates this energy is wildly unlimited and it is clean.”

There are two main ways to generate nuclear fusion, but both have the same result. Fusing two atoms creates a tremendous amount of heat, which holds the key to producing energy. That heat can be used to warm water, create steam and turn turbines to generate power – much like how nuclear fission generates energy.

The big challenge of harnessing fusion energy is sustaining it long enough so that it can power electric grids and heating systems around the globe. The successful US breakthrough is a big deal, but it’s still on a far smaller scale than what’s needed to generate enough energy to run one power plant, never mind tens of thousands of power plants.

Scientists and experts now need to figure out how to produce much more energy from nuclear fusion on a much larger scale. At the same time, they need to figure out how to eventually reduce the cost of nuclear fusion so that it can be used commercially.

Several fusion projects are in the US, United Kingdom and Europe. France is home to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, on which thirty-five countries are collaborating – including main members China, the United States, the European Union, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea.

In the US, much of the work is happening at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, in a building that spans the size of three football fields.

Zahra Sikandar
Written By


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