Many already know that the U.K.-based Joint European Torus (JET) nuclear fusion reactor heated a gas of hydrogen isotopes to 150 million degrees Celsius and held it steady for 5 seconds while nuclei fused together, releasing 59 megajoules (MJ) of energy. This is approximately twice the kinetic energy of a fully loaded semitrailer truck traveling at 99 miles per hour, and more than 2.5-times the previous record of 22 MJ, set by JET 25 years earlier.
Unfortunately, this record does not mean fusion-generated electricity will flow into the grid anytime soon, but the achievement does give researchers confidence in the design of ITER, a massive fusion reactor under construction in France, which is supposed to generate at least 10-times as much energy as is fed in. It does confirm that fusion energy is no longer just a dream of the far future since the engineering to make it a viable, clean power source is happening today.
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Our experiment demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to have a sustained fusion process using exactly the same fuel mix planned for future fusion power plants. The energy you can get out of the fuel deuterium and tritium is massive. For example, powering the whole of current UK electrical demand for a day would require 0.5 tonnes of deuterium, which could be extracted from seawater — where its concentration is low but plentiful,” said Tony Donné, CEO of EUROfusion at a press conference.