The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday that scientists have for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it — a major breakthrough in the decades-long effort to harness the process that powers the sun.
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved the result last week, the Energy Department said.
The breakthrough will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.
“Ignition allows us to replicate for the first time certain conditions that are found only in the stars and the sun,″ Granholm said. “This milestone moves us one significant step closer to having zero-carbon fusion energy powering our society.”
Proponents of fusion hope it could one day displace fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. Producing carbon-free energy that powers homes and businesses from fusion is still decades away. But researchers said the announcement marked a significant leap forward.
Fusion works by pressing hydrogen atoms into each other with such force that they combine into helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy and heat. Unlike other nuclear reactions, it doesn’t create radioactive waste.
NJBIA has been a proponent of the advancement of fusion energy, as part of a wide portfolio of energy choices to reduce carbon emissions, rather than pure electrification.
“It was an incredible scientific effort to move this forward. It shows not only the true promise of fusion, but also the unique capabilities of our U.S. national labs,” said Steve Cowley, Laboratory Director of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a partner of the Livermore National Laboratory.
“This may be one of the most significant scientific achievements of this century,” said Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26), a sponsor of legislation in 2019 to help position the state at the forefront of fusion development.
“We are moving closer to the realization of zero-carbon, sustainable power for homes, industry, and more. This is proof of concept. It works! It’s no longer just a hypothesis on a white board.”
At NJBIA’s 2nd annual Energy Conference In September, Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16), who is also Head of Communications and Public Outreach at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, discussed in great detail the potential of fusion energy.
A video of Zwicker’s presentation can be found here.