84 years on from the discovery of nuclear fission – splitting atoms to release energy – the nuclear industry in 2022 seemingly entered a new realm of energy production. December saw a group of US scientists perform a breakthrough in nuclear fusion – combining atoms to release energy – where hydrogen played a central role.
The experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, US, saw a series of increasingly powerful laser systems create temperatures and pressures such as those in the core of stars to kickstart a fusion reaction, which forced hydrogen atoms together and released energy.
Despite only delivering 3.15MJ of energy output, it is hoped the experiment could pave the way for nuclear fusion to become a key part of our energy system. Elina Teplinsky, Partner and Nuclear Energy and Hydrogen Expert at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, as well as the co-leader in the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative (NHI) told H2 View that the development came as a turning point in demonstrating the commercial viability of fusion.
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