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News Link • Energy

The lasers fuelling hopes of unlimited, clean nuclear energy

•, Stev Connor
 Scientists in California said on Wednesday night that they have for the first time managed to release more energy from their nuclear fusion experiment than they put into it, which marks a critical threshold in eventually achieving the goal of a self-sustaining nuclear-fusion reaction.

Nuclear fusion uses a fuel source derived from water and produces none of the more dangerous and long-lasting isotopes, such as enriched uranium and plutonium, that result from conventional nuclear power plants, which rely on the fission or splitting of atoms rather than their fusion.

Researchers involved in the Nuclear Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said that they have used 192 laser beams to compress a tiny fuel pellet less than half the diameter of a human hair in such a way that it triggered the net release of energy by nuclear fusion.

The fuel, composed of the two hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium derived from water, was compressed together under enormous pressures and temperatures for less than a billionth of a second, but this was enough to see more energy coming out of the experiment than went into it.

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