Nuclear fusion: UK experiment centre explained by expert
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Earlier this month, the UK made a major breakthrough in the search for unlimited clean energy after scientists set a new record for the amount of energy that can be extracted from nuclear fusion. Researchers at the UK’s Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory conducted experiments that produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds – double what was previously achieved in 1997.
It is a major breakthrough in the quest to develop nuclear fusion – tipped to be the Holy Grail energy source as it can provide limitless power.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Joe Milnes, Head of JET Operations at the UK Atomic Energy Authority said that lithium was a crucial aspect to taking these experiments further and generating unlimited clean energy.
The UK is said to have an abundance of lithium, especially in Cornwall, which companies like British Lithium and Cornish Lithium are trying to extract.
Earlier this month, British Lithium stated that its drilling and testing programs were better than originally expected, and now predict that they will be able to produce 21,000 metric tonnes of high-purity lithium carbonate per year once they begin full-scale production.
Dr Milnes said that nuclear fusion energy, once achieved would be “effectively limitless.”
He said: “The fusion fuels are deuterium, which can be extracted from water, and tritium which can be bred from lithium.
“There are thousands, if not millions, of years’ worth of deuterium and lithium spread across the globe.
“Fusion provides one of the few options for supplying large amounts of continuous power to the grid and it is essential that we develop it, along with other sustainable sources.”
Fusion power can generate electricity by using heat from nuclear fusion reactions, the same process used by stars.
Dr Milnes said: “These landmark results have taken us a big step closer to conquering one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of them all.
“The JET team has demonstrated we can achieve record amounts of fusion energy and can sustain this for a meaningful amount of time using materials and fuels that are more relevant for future fusion powerplant designs than previous attempts.
“It is a reward for over 20 years of research and experiments with our partners from across Europe.
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“As pressures mount to address the effects of climate change through de-carbonising energy production, this success is a major step forward on fusion’s roadmap as a safe, efficient, low carbon means of tackling the global energy crisis.”
In a fusion process, two lighter atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, while releasing energy.
Scientists at JET, which is based at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire, created enough energy to boil about 60 kettles’ worth of water.
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