Researchers at Berkeley achieve breakthrough in controlled nuclear fusion
Controlled nuclear fusion is seen as a way of generating energy in large quantities and in a climate-friendly manner. The National Ignition Facility in Livermore is now a big step closer to that goal.
“One of the most impressive scientific achievements of the century,” praised US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in Washington on Tuesday. There she had invited to the press conference to talk about a major advance in fusion research made by an international research group at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory not far from San Francisco. As the researchers reported on Tuesday, they apparently succeeded in igniting a controlled solar fire in an earthly laboratory through the targeted fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium nuclei. In the process, more energy was released than was previously deposited in the fuel. In their experiment, the researchers directed intense laser beams at a pea-sized capsule containing the fuel, the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium.
Nuclear fusion is considered by many energy experts to be an inexhaustible and clean source of energy for the future. Just one gram would provide as much energy in a future fusion reactor as is produced by burning eleven tons of coal, but without polluting the climate with carbon dioxide emissions. Since, unlike the fission of uranium nuclei, no long-lived radioactive waste is produced, there is no longer a problem with final disposal. Even an accident like that in a nuclear power plant would not be to be feared in a fusion power plant.