US to Announce Fusion Energy ‘Breakthrough'

The US Department of Energy has announced that a "major scientific breakthrough" has been made in the federal Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, with additional detail to be provided Tuesday.

US to Announce Fusion Energy ‘Breakthrough'
Image credit: David Butow/Corbis/Getty Images [via The Telegraph]

Facts

  • The US Department of Energy has announced that a "major scientific breakthrough" has been made in the federal Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, with additional detail to be provided Tuesday.
  • It's thought that scientists have recently achieved an elusive "net energy gain" in a fusion reaction, according to a Financial Times report citing three individuals privy to the experiment.
  • The reaction involved bombarding a pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world's largest laser to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction — producing 2.5 megajoules of energy, which is 120% of the energy used to power the experiment.
  • Fusion research aims to replicate the carbon-free nuclear reaction that takes place on the sun that scientists have attempted since the 1950s. A senior fusion scientist familiar with work stated: "To most of us, this was only a matter of time."
  • Tony Roulstone, a fusion scientist at the University of Cambridge, told CNN that while the potential US breakthrough is promising, the success is "miles away" from being able to provide mass energy for consumption.

Sources: Financial Times, FOX News, Independent, Washington Post, and CNN.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by The Telegraph. The news is a breakthrough in the search for clean energy and a true milestone in the journey to move economies away from carbon-producing fossil fuels. With bipartisan support in Washington, we are one step closer to reaching the "holy grail" of energy production.
  • Narrative B, as provided by New Scientist. At least for now, nuclear fusion will likely not solve climate change. With efficient, reliable fusion reactors, we could conceivably meet the world's energy demands. However, we are far away from this being a reality because it is challenging to scale and implement this technology on a widespread level. To keep global warming down, we must cut carbon emissions right now — this development may play a role later this century.

Predictions