Federal scientists have repeated their breakthrough toward nuclear fusion energy three times this year — and now say they can “consistently” produce fusion energy.
Late last year, the Energy Department announced its scientists had achieved a breakthrough — receiving a net-energy gain from a nuclear fusion reaction for the first time.
It later announced that it had repeated the achievement — getting a net energy gain for the second time in July.
A recent report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory showed it got a net-gain two additional times — both in October.
“These results demonstrated [the National Ignition Facility’s] ability to consistently produce fusion energy at multi-megajoule levels,” the report said.
In a nuclear fusion reaction, atoms are fused together to create energy.
Nuclear energy used today is produced by a different process, known as fission, in which atoms are split apart. Nuclear fusion does not create waste that requires long-term storage, as today’s fission power does.
Despite the breakthroughs, widespread use of nuclear fusion power remains years if not decades away, though the Biden administration has touted it as a potential source of climate-friendly energy.
In addition to its energy uses, when the breakthrough was announced last year, a federal official also described fusion as “an essential process in modern nuclear weapons.”
“Since achieving ignition for the first time last December, we have continued to perform experiments to study this exciting new scientific regime,” said Mark Herrmann, the laboratory’s associate director for Weapon Physics and Design, in a written statement.
He added that the breakthrough enables “unprecedented capability to support the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and potentially paving first steps toward a fusion energy future.”
— Updated at 5:21 p.m.
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