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A Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion

An Oxford start-up called First Light Fusion achieved sustained fusion energy with its new process in February, according to The Telegraph (subscription).

The “Holy Grail”: Manmade nuclear fusion promises to create large amounts of energy in the same way the sun does, by fusing atoms at extremely high temperatures and in the process converting some of the mass into energy. Scientists have been working to produce energy from nuclear fusion for decades, but technical and logistical challenges have long made the prospect seem unlikely.

The process: First Light Fusion says its nuclear fusion process, which involves compressing a fuel pellet, is simpler and more energy efficient than other approaches.

The breakthrough: Working in the JET laboratory near Oxford, the company’s researchers set a record for fusion energy produced. The 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy is not enough to power a house, but it represents a breakthrough in achieving fusion with the new process.

The goal: First Light Fusion believes it could produce power for less than $50 per megawatt, which would make it competitive with renewable energy sources.

Next steps: “It [First Light Fusion] hopes to be able to build a 150-megawatt pilot power plant in the 2030s and is working with UBS, the Swiss bank, on its development plans.”

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