the United States claims to have made a “major scientific breakthrough”.

« If this breakthrough (…) is real, it could be a game-changer for the planet », rejoiced Ted Lieu, member of Congress from California. And for good reason, the United States could very well be one « major scientific breakthrough this week » in the field of nuclear fusion. The US Department of Energy announced this on Sunday. On the same day, a few hours earlier, the British media, Financial timeshad also reported that scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), located in California, recently discovered a « net energy gain » of an experimental fusion reactor. Their installation consists of nearly 200 lasers the size of three football fields, which target a small point with a high energy level to trigger a fusion reaction. According to FT citing three people who were aware of the preliminary results, the fusion reaction yielding a net energy gain of 120% took place over the past two weeks.

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Nuclear fission and fusion

As a reminder, there are two techniques for generating energy. Nuclear fission, currently used in nuclear power plants, consists of breaking the bonds of heavy atomic nuclei to recover the energy. Fusion is the reverse process: us « mary » two light atomic nuclei to create a heavy one. In this case, two isotopes (atomic variants) of hydrogen, from which helium is formed. This method is therefore regarded by its defenders as the energy of tomorrow, mainly because it produces little waste and no greenhouse gases.

But it’s not quite mastered yet, and if the US announcements were true, it would be the first time researchers have managed to produce more energy in a fusion reaction – like the one that powers the sun – than they expended alone in the method. This would indeed represent an important step forward in the quest for carbon-free energy.

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Invités à commenter l’article du FT, les porte-paroles du département de l’Energie et du LLNL ont indiqué à l’AFP que la secrétaire d’État américaine à l’Energie, Jennifer Granholm, organisera mardi un événement au cours duquel she « will herald a major scientific breakthrough » concerning this. The LLNL spokesperson added that “ the analysis (was) still ongoing ». « We look forward to sharing more information on Tuesday when this process is complete. »she assured.

France wants to launch its own nuclear fusion reactor project

The French are not left out. In fact, researchers want to develop their own nuclear fusion power plant. Last October, the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) hoped to get funding for a feasibility study of a nuclear fusion reactor. “The idea is to work on the design of a nuclear fusion power station that is compact and quick to build, as the English do”explains Jérôme Bucalossi, head of the CEA research institute for magnetic fusion.

And this, in parallel with France’s participation in the international project of the Iter reactor, whose pharaonic construction site continues in Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône). This project, which started in 2006 and brings together six countries and the European Union, aims precisely to demonstrate the scientific and technical viability of this solution on a large scale. “Iter will be the largest installation of this type in the world”, the international organization claims on its site by specifying that the machine, once completed, will weigh around 23,000 tons.

Several other countries have also launched their own national project, including the United Kingdom “Who is the biggest promoter of nuclear fusion in Europe”said Jérôme Bucalossi. “The STEP program aims to develop a grid-connected fusion reactor before 2040”he specified.

Energy: France wants to launch its own nuclear fusion reactor project