“A historic achievement that will lead to new discoveries” – this is how the US Department of Energy reacted to the news that an increase in energy was obtained in the course of a thermonuclear fusion reaction for the first time.
On Dec. 5, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California managed to generate 3.15 megajoules of energy at the NIF experimental reactor by spending 2.05 megajoules to heat the plasma, the ministry said in a communiqué released Tuesday.
There are two principles of operation of thermonuclear reactors. The generally accepted one is based on slow thermonuclear fusion, in which physicists plan to confine hot plasma using magnetic fields and electric currents. On its basis, the international experimental thermonuclear reactor ITER is being built in France.
But there is an alternative approach: fast thermonuclear fusion. In this case, the thermonuclear reaction proceeds in millionths of a second when thermonuclear fuel is compressed – a mixture of tritium and deuterium. Powerful lasers are used for compression. It is this technology that is being developed at the American NIF experimental reactor.