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Breakthrough in commercial nuclear fusion for clean energy

Amidst the growing concerns about global warming, many heavily funded efforts have been focused towards building commercial nuclear fusion reactors. On 13 December 2022, scientists crossed a decades long quest to find such an alternative source of renewable energy. This breakthrough is expected to attract investments in fusion technology. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was responsible for this breakthrough in re-producing the power of the sun in a laboratory by imitating a fusion reaction between hydrogen molecules.

Fusion reactions are a clean energy source, with no greenhouse gas emissions. On the flipside, it generally requires a substantial amount of energy input in order to initiate the reaction. In all the previous efforts by scientists, their experiments consumed more energy than the actual fusion reaction generated. An energy gain of 1.5 times of the input power to initiate the experiment was obtained with the recent breakthrough, which can be tapped into and be created into a viable source of power.

The technology promises a cheap and carbon free source of energy and could alter the global landscape transfer all together, there is still a huge gap between the milestone and building power plants. An important conclusion to the breakthrough would be the existence of two separate methods of producing fusion energy.

This breakthrough in nuclear fusion, although not focused on producing fusion power plants on a commercial scale, primarily helps companies that have been pursuing fusion as a zero grid energy source. While many are calling it the ‘Wright brothers’ moment for fusion, atomic startups also foresee an abundance of investments from potential investors into these startups as well as from governments into national laboratories worldwide. The investments in clean fusion technology was about $2.6 billion in 2021, it is down to $1 billion this year. This week’s technology breakthrough will not only attract more investments to the sector but also add to the existing clean energy methods to achieve 2050 net zero emissions grid power.