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US Announces Historic Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough

United States has announced a nuclear fusion breakthrough, a historic step towards the promise of ‘near-limitless’ clean energy and may help the fight to curb climate change. US Department of Energy said, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it, something called net energy gain.

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More About This Remarkable Development:

The achievement will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power. This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery.

About The Course of The Progress:

    • Scientists use high-energy laser beams to achieve these temperatures which is also called inertial fusion.
    • At the international collaborative project in southern France called ITER in which India is a partner used very strong magnetic fields for the same purpose which is the second method of producing this energy.
      • The ITER project is expected to demonstrate the viability of a commercially scalable nuclear fusion reactor between 2035 and 2040.
    • Some countries are trying laser-based inertial fusion as well.
  • It is relatively easier to attain break-even energy levels through inertial fusion compared to magnetic fusion.

About The Fusion Technology:

It is a powerful way of harnessing the immense energy trapped in the nucleus of an atom. Attempts to master the fusion process have been going on at least since the 1950s, but it is incredibly difficult and is still at an experimental stage.

  • Fission Process: The nuclear energy currently in use across the world comes from the fission process in which the nucleus of a heavier element is split into those of lighter elements in a controlled manner.
  • Fusion Process: Here, the nuclei of two lighter elements are made to fuse together to form the nucleus of a heavier atom.
    • The fusion of two nuclei of a heavier isotope of hydrogen, called tritium produces at least four times as much energy as the fission of a uranium atom which is the normal process of generating electricity in a nuclear reactor.
    • Fusion is also a carbon-free source of energy and has negligible radiation risks.
  • A large amount of energy is released in both these processes, but the energy is more in fusion than fission.

ITER( (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor):

  • It is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject aimed at creating energy by replicating on Earth the fusion processes of the Sun.
  • When operational it would become the biggest machine anywhere in the world which would be more complex than the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or the LIGO project to detect gravitational waves.
  • Currently, the ITER reactor is in the machine assembly phase.
  • India joined the ITER project in 2005. The Institute for Plasma Research in Ahmedabad, a laboratory under the Department of Atomic Energy, is the lead institution from the Indian side participating in the project.

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