A historical event: the United States Department of Energy announced that he had obtained for the first time a I earn net of energy using the process of nuclear fusion. The same mechanism that powers the Sun and the stars has produced clean and safe energy on our planet. A source of unlimited energy, no emissions or waste: a huge step for all humanity.
Nuclear fusion: For the first time, the United States produces energy at a net profit
The date that will go down in history is December 5, 2022, when researchers at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California obtained 3.15 MegaJoules with a nuclear fusion reaction. All at front of 2.05 MJ consumed: a net gain in energy, which will make it possible to power homes and businesses in the future without polluting.
In fact, the nuclear fusion reaction has been the subject of experimentation since the 1930s, with theoretical analyzes even preceding that date. But the problem is that it takes a lot of energy to trigger fusion. In fact the process foresees (simplifying) of bring two hydrogen nuclei so close together so much to fuse them in an atom of helium, as happens in the sun. Atoms have similar charges and so yes they reject: they don’t want to get close. To allow the reaction, one must then warm them up very very muchincreasing their state of agitation so that it exceeds the force with which the nuclei repel each other.
Reaching these temperatures in a safe environment is a challenge in itself, but being able to produce an energy gain is the historic turning point. This experiment proves that it is possible to achieve more energy than is needed to initiate the processproducing an energy gain just as the sun and other stars do.
Towards a future of clean and unlimited energy
The Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm explained that: “This milestone brings us one significant step closer to the possibility of having un carbon-neutral energy that powers our society“. In fact, Californian scientists have demonstrated the possibility of feeding external systems through the process of nuclear fusion.
A huge advantage over nuclear fission power plants, which instead obtain energy by splitting a heavy atom, the reverse process of fusion. In fact, fusion has no dangerous waste like current nuclear power plants: the waste product is helium (non-readaptive) and small amounts of tritium, radioactive for a very short time and not threatening to health. Furthermore, using hydrogen atoms does not require rare materials such as fossil fuels or rare minerals: hydrogen is the most abundant element in nature, we find it in the water.
Nuclear fusion produces ten million times more energy compared to the burning of oil or gas, without generating harmful gases. But it requires energy to start the process: both to obtain hydrogen by electrolysis of water and to start the fusion process. For this reason, the news from the United States is exceptional: for the first time, nuclear fusion has had a net gain.
A long way to commercial use
However, it will still be a long time before we can start using this clean and unlimited energy. At the moment we are still in the experimental phase. In particular, in California the United States have used the technique of inertial confinement, created to simulate the explosion of nuclear devices. Commercial applications on the other hand should, according to experts, use the lockdown magneticthe one that uses theITER in the South of France (which has an Italian director and uses made in Italy technology).
In any case, this first experiment is a fundamental step towards the energy transition of our planet. But before becoming operational it will require years of important investments: many experts they doubt we could exploit it before 2050. So it will take the best minds in the world to work on nuclear fusion, but also investments in other types of renewable resources to prevent this energy breakthrough from coming too late.
Corriere della Sera