Nuclear fusion breakthrough: HUGE reaction a key step in quest for limitless clean energy

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Eventually, a nuclear fusion process could generate limitless clean electricity by using heat from fusion reactions. This is the same natural reaction which happens in stars like our sun, where hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium and matter, generating vast amounts of energy.

But the main puzzle behind creating this process on Earth is yet to be solved – getting the reaction to use up less energy than it produces.

Now, scientists have made a major breakthrough in the quest for limitless clean energy by creating a reaction with temperatures in excess of 100 million Celsius, which lasted for 30 seconds.

A research team from Seoul National University and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy created this stunning reaction by experimenting with the fusion reactor at the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR).

They managed to find a new and improved technique for containing the plasma at the core of the reactor, helping to trigger the breakthrough.

Dubbed an “artificial Sun”, the technology merges atomic nuclei, which are found in stars, and this process then generates huge amounts of energy, which could be used as electricity.

Back in 2020, nuclear physicist Si-Woo Yoon, a director at the KSTAR, said: “The technologies required for long operations of 100 million-degree plasma are the key to the realisation of fusion energy.”

At that time, the scientists managed to make a 100 degrees Celsius reaction last only 20 seconds, which was still considered a huge step in the path to unlocking the full potential of nuclear fusion.

Prof Si-Woo Yoon added: “The KSTAR’s success in maintaining the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds will be an important turning point in the race for securing the technologies for the long high-performance plasma operation, a critical component of a commercial nuclear fusion reactor in the future.”

But the latest, longer reaction, has set the bar even higher and could be hugely significant in eventually helping countries around the world to boost their homegrown energy security and wean themselves off natural gas.

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In the UK, which is currently grappling with a crippling energy crisis that has seen bills sent soaring, most of the electricity is generated from burning natural gas.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s gas cuts to Europe have exposed Britain’s vulnerability to volatile international gas markets, it has laid bare the importance of slashing foreign gas and shoring up alternative energy sources.

In the short-term, this will likely mean ramping up Britain’s renewable energy capacity. But nuclear fusion could one day help the UK generate limitless clean electricity once the code behind the “Holy grail” energy source has been cracked.

And Britain is reportedly at a huge advantage to become one of the first nations to solve the puzzle.

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Dr Nick Hawker, the CEO of Oxford-based fusion start-up called First Light Fusion (FLF), has even suggested that Britain could solve the issue “this decade”.

He told the Science and Technology Committee back in May: “There are a number of projects now who have very credible plans to really solve and prove the physics problem is solved this decade.”

He later added: “I think we have a huge advantage in this country that there is a very great depth of knowledge, talent and expertise in fusion.

“In our view, it seems like a very good place to build a fusion power plant…We are an established nuclear nation with civil nuclear power and all of the supply chain, all of the skillsets that we have for that.”

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