Researchers have exceeded the current record for generating energy from a nuclear fusion reaction.
Nuclear fusion is called the holy grail of energy production – because it could lead to a virtually unlimited source of safe + sustainable power. The nuclear test happened at the world’s most powerful fusion plant – the JET Fusion facility in the UK. The record-breaking nuclear fusion reaction had a temperature of more than 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the heart of the sun.
The essential part of the test fusion reaction only lasted for 5 seconds – and only generated enough power to boil about 60 kettles of water – 11 mega-watts of power.
Temperatures to produce nuclear fusion need to be extremely high – above 100 million Celsius. To achieve fusion in a lab, scientists invented a solution – super-heated gas is held inside a doughnut shaped magnetic field.
The plasma used in the JET Fusion reactor is hotter than anything in our solar system. The current test supports the design of an even bigger fusion reactor being constructed in France.
Nuclear fusion reactions in labs famously consume more energy to launch than they can output – this is called an energy deficit. The JET Fusion lab used two 500 mega-watt flywheels just to power the experiment.
Possible power plants of the future – based on nuclear fusion instead of nuclear fission – would produce no greenhouse gases and only a small amount of short-lived radioactive waste.
The JET Fusion facility is located at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy – managed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
International nuclear scientists collaborate at the research center as part of the EURO Fusion consortium – made-up of 4,800 experts. It’s the only lab that can operate with the deuterium-tritium fuel mix that’s used for commercial fusion energy.
Its success led to the construction of the first commercial-scale nuclear fusion machine – and its scientists have proven the design for future fusion power plants.
The hope of recent nuclear fusion tests is to develop practical techniques to harness energy successfully – paving the way for sustainable fusion power plants of tomorrow.
That’s a major step forward in our quest to achieve fusion power plants. This is a stunning result because they managed to demonstrate the greatest amount of energy output from the fusion reactions of any device in history.