In advance of a U.S. government announcement next week, a report hinting at a breakthrough in the search for viable nuclear fusion is generating a burst of cautious excitement for the future of energy.
According to sources cited by the Financial Times, scientists at a federal facility in California have recently been able to generate more energy in the past two weeks than the amount of energy that was used for the experiment by using laser beams to start a fusion reaction with a small quantity of hydrogen plasma.
The report added that scientists stress that fusion power stations are decades away from becoming a reality, but this net energy gain, which has eluded physicists for decades, was made at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and signals the emergence of a technology that could become a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.
Two of its sources said that the greater-than-expected energy output — 2.5 megajoules of energy in the experiment using 2.1 megajoules of energy in the lasers — damaged some diagnostic equipment, as the report offers some reason to be careful. But with a healthy dose of caution, the news was welcomed by both insiders and outsiders of the scientific community.
Dr. Arthur Turrell, a plasma physicist, as the report stated, said, “If this is confirmed, we are witnessing a moment of history. Scientists have struggled to show that fusion can release more energy than is put in since the 1950s, and the researchers at Lawrence Livermore seem to have finally and absolutely smashed this decades-old goal.”
“If this fusion energy breakthrough is true, it could be a game changer for the world,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who is a member of multiple energy caucuses and groups.
If this fusion energy breakthrough is true, it could be a game changer for the world. https://t.co/bSeCnWCE19
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 11, 2022
However, the laboratory was not yet prepared to confirm any results, the report stated.
“Initial diagnostic data suggests another successful experiment at the National Ignition Facility. However, the exact yield is still being determined and we can’t confirm that it is over the threshold at this time, that analysis is in process, so publishing the information … before that process is complete would be inaccurate,” the lab said.
Nevertheless, the Energy Department expects “a major scientific breakthrough” to be announced on Tuesday at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Jill Hruby.
Watch the video report below for more details: