The UK-based Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory has outdone its previous world record amount of fusion power generation, doubling the record set in 1997 by producing 59 megajoules of energy over the course of five seconds through pressing two forms of hydrogen together. Whilst this level of energy may seem small, it opens the doors for the possibility of fusion reactors in the future.
The scientists at the laboratory have essentially created a tiny star and held it there for a few seconds to create energy for usage, proving that the use of fusion as an energy source is entirely valid. Should fusion reactors become a thing, they would produce no greenhouse gas of any sort and only a miniscule amount of short-lived radioactive waste product. They also would not be capable of having large-scale incidents, would have plentiful resources to use as fuel and are predicted to cost the same as any other energy source.
Whilst five seconds seems like no time at all to us, for nuclear fusion that is an extreme amount of time and from five seconds it may not be long before five minutes is achieved, or even five hours. The main reason JET couldn’t run for longer is due to the magnets used to control the plasma becoming too hot, though internally cooled superconducting magnets are planned for future facilities.
There is also the question of energy profit, JET may have produced a lot of power for five seconds, but it used two 500 megawatt flywheels to run the experiment, however, evidence has been produced that upscaling the plasma used to create the energy will overcome this. The French lab ITER hopes to breakeven with energy used and energy produced, hoping to start its own experiments by 2025 once JET has been decommissioned after 2023.
Doubts are present on whether fusion technology would be created in a timely enough manner to act as a sustainable, green energy source before the world passes a point of no return and hope shouldn’t be put into it as a saving grace. However, it has now been proven that humans can create fusion and may produce a sustainable energy source that could provide for thousands of years.