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A Fusion-Powered Future?

As you might have heard, scientists have achieved a remarkable breakthrough in nuclear fusion, as reported in The Wall Street Journal (subscription) and POLITICO Pro (subscription). So, what does that mean for our energy future?

A quick recap: “A controlled fusion reaction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., produced more energy than it consumed, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other government officials said during a press conference from DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. The milestone, known as fusion ignition, is unprecedented, according to the DOE,” the Journal reports.

  • A Dec. 5 experiment using lasers resulted in 3.15 megajoules of fusion energy. Just 2.05 megajoules were used to start the reaction.

Why it’s important: “Fusion energy has long been a dream for scientists who say the technology will enable cheap, plentiful power that does not produce the planet-heating gases or pollution that come with burning fossil fuels,” according to POLITICO Pro.

  • What’s more, “the hydrogen atoms that fuel fusion reactions are in an essentially limitless supply,” the Journal reports.

However … “It is premature to talk about building fusion power plants, said Gianluca Sarri, a professor of physics at Queen’s University Belfast who wasn’t involved in the new research. ‘There are technical issues that need to be solved still before it becomes an energy source,’” as he told the Journal.

A milestone nonetheless: “This scientific achievement is an exciting breakthrough for a clean energy economy,” said NAM Director of Energy and Resources Policy Chris Morris.

  • “DOE’s announcement and this administration’s continued commitment to nuclear energy play a critical role in U.S. clean power. Understanding that we cannot achieve a truly clean energy economy without nuclear energy signals to energy producers and consumers that the U.S. is committed to an all-of-the-above energy approach.”
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