Major Breakthrough Reported in Nuclear Fusion Experiments

News outlets today are reporting that the JET laboratory in Oxfordshire in the UK has achieved an important achievement in the production of energy from nuclear fusion using tritium (an isotope of hydrogen) as a fuel.

Experiments at the laboratory produced 11 megawatts of power over a period of five seconds which is over twice as much power as was produced in experiment conducted in 1997.

BBC News quotes Dr. Joe Milnes who leads that laboratory:

“The JET experiments put us a step closer to fusion power,” said Dr Joe Milnes, the head of operations at the reactor lab. “We’ve demonstrated that we can create a mini star inside of our machine and hold it there for five seconds and get high performance, which really takes us into a new realm.”

The energy produced by the JET reactor does not produce more energy than it consumes, but they believe the breakeven mark can be achieved with further research and development.

An article in the Guardian explains that these results have important implications for the work being done by the Iter consortium in France:

Experiments at JET have focused on whether fusion is feasible with a fuel based on two isotopes of hydrogen known as deuterium and tritium which combine to form helium gas. The latest results suggest that it is and provide crucial confirmation for Iter, a larger fusion project being built in the south of France. Iter is scheduled to start burning deuterium-tritium fuel in 2035 and ultimately generate more heat than is needed to keep its plasma at high temperature.