Another small step on the road to nuclear fusion. Better, a “breakthrough.” The Washington Post writes this in pointing out that the Department of Energy plans to announce Tuesday that scientists “have been able for the first time to produce a fusion reaction that creates a net gain in energy,” what constitutes a milestone in the decades-long, multibillion-dollar quest to develop a technology that provides unlimited, cheap megawatts of clean energy.
The goal of fusion research is to replicate the nuclear reaction through which energy is created on the sun without carbon emissions. It’s a goal that scientists have been pursuing since the 1950s, although–the Post points out–it’s probably “still at least a decade, perhaps decades, away from commercial use, but the latest development is likely to be touted by the Biden administration as a commitment to massive government investment over the coming years. Especially since enormous public and private funds have been injected into the worldwide fusion race, with the goal of ultimately producing fusion machinery that could bring electricity to the grid with no carbon footprints, no radioactive waste, and far fewer resources than are needed to harness solar and wind power. In addition to the climate benefits, proponents say it could help bring cheap electricity to poor parts of the world. But all are currently entrenched behind a strict “no comment.”
Nuclear fusion relies on smashing two atoms at incredibly high speeds and turning the energy from that reaction into electricity that can power homes and offices without emitting carbon into the air or dumping radioactive waste into the environment. Notes the Post, “In the decades that scientists have been experimenting with fusion reactions, until now they have not been able to create one that produces more energy than it consumes. While the result is significant, there are still enormous engineering and scientific challenges ahead.”
For now, only one comment, that of David Edelman, who leads global policy and affairs at Tae, a large private fusion energy company: “There will be great pride that this achievement has been achieved in the United States, a very important milestone on the road to fusion energy.”