U.S. energy officials announced Tuesday that government scientists in California have produced the first successful nuclear fusion reaction, resulting in net energy.
“This is what American leadership looks like, and we’re just getting started,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said of the “major scientific breakthrough” at a morning news conference in Washington.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility, also known as scientific energy hacking, made a historic breakthrough on Dec. 5.
The experiment exceeded the laboratory’s fusion limit, delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in a fusion energy output of 3.15 MJ.
The breakthrough, first reported by the Financial Times, comes after decades of research into using fusion power to power the sun.
Neither group could produce more energy from the reaction than they consumed, and fusion occurs at temperatures and pressures that are difficult to control.
It works by pushing hydrogen atoms together with such force that they combine with helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy and heat.
Also, unlike other nuclear reactions, it does not produce radioactive waste.
Kim Budil, director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told reporters it had taken 60 years of work to get to this point — which many said was “impossible.”
“This achievement opens up new scientific areas for research and development of our capabilities for our national security mission,” he said. “It demonstrates the power of US leadership in science and technology and what we are capable of as a nation.”
Budil said the ignition is the first step that will set the stage for a transformative decade in high energy density science and fusion research.
AN OIL SHUTDOWN IN NORTHEAST KANSAS SHUTDOWN A MAJOR PIPELINE.
It’s a technology that has the potential to accelerate the planet’s transition away from fossil fuels and generate nearly limitless, carbon-free energy.
Although it’s still decades before nuclear energy can power homes and businesses, researchers say it’s an important step.
Previously, researchers at the National Ignition Facility used about 200 lasers and temperatures several times hotter than the center of the sun to create a very short fusion reaction.
FOX Business’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.