Experts hail major breakthrough in UK fusion technology

British officials announced Wednesday that European scientists are now closer to mastering the technology that will allow them to harness nuclear fusion to provide a clean, unlimited source of energy.

Experts hail major breakthrough in UK fusion technology

The Joint European Torus experiment near Oxford produced a record amount heat energy in a five-second time period, according to the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority.

The production of 59 megajoules sustained fusion energy was more than twice the 1997 record.

According to the agency, the result was the "clearest worldwide demonstration of the potential for Fusion Energy to produce safe and sustainable low-carbon electricity."

Tony Donne, EUROfusion program manager, stated that if we can keep fusion going for five seconds, then we can go for five minutes, and then for five hours, as we scale up operations in future machines. "This is a huge moment for all of us, and the whole fusion community."

Ian Chapman (CEO of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority) said that the results are a "huge leap closer to conquering one the most difficult scientific and engineering challenges of all."

JET is the name of the facility that houses the largest and most powerful operational Tokamak in the world. This device is a donut-shaped device, which is one promising method to perform controlled fusion.

Scientists who weren't involved in the project thought it was a significant achievement, but still far from commercializing fusion power.

Researchers from all over the globe have been researching nuclear Fusion technology for a long time,trying various approaches. The ultimate goal of generating power is the same way as the sun produces heat. This can be achieved by pressing hydrogen atoms together to form helium which then releases torrents upon energy.

Carolyn Kuranz, University of Michigan, called the development "very interesting" and a step towards achieving "ignition," which is when fuel can continue "burning" and produce more energy than it needs to ignite the initial reaction.

She stated that the results were "very promising" for ITER. This larger experimental Fusion Facility in southern France uses the same technology. It is supported by many European countries including the United States, China and Japan. It is expected that it will be operational by 2026.

Riccardo Betti from the University of Rochester is a fusion expert. He said that the key to the success was in maintaining the reaction at high performance levels for five second, which is significantly more than what was previously possible in a tokamak.

He added that the power obtained was still far below what was required to complete the experiment.

Ian Fells (emeritus professor of Energy Conversion at the University of Newcastle) described the new record in fusion research as a landmark.

He said, "Now it's up to engineers to convert this into carbon-free electric power and mitigate the problem climate change." "Commercialization could take ten to twenty years."

Stephanie Diem, University of Wisconsin Madison, stated that the technology used to obtain the result by JET, which uses magnets to control ultrahot plasma, shows that harnessing fusion, a process that occurs naturally within the stars, is physically possible.

She stated that the next milestone in magnetic fusion's history is scientific breakeven. This means that the energy generated from fusion reactions outweighs the energy going into the device.

Rival teams are currently racing to develop other ways of controlling fusion, and they have recently reported significant progress.

Scientists believe that fusion reactors could one day be able to provide an alternative source of energy, without the risk of conventional nuclear power.

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