US scientists announce fusion energy breakthrough

U.S. scientists have for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it — a major breakthrough in the decades-long quest to harness the process that powers the sun, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved the result, which is called net energy gain. Net energy gain has been an elusive goal because fusion happens at such high temperatures and pressures that it is incredibly difficult to control.

Proponents of fusion hope that it could one day offer nearly limitless, carbon-free energy and displace fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. Producing energy that powers homes and businesses from fusion is still decades away. But researchers said the announcement marked a significant advance, nonetheless.

Fusion works by pressing hydrogen atoms into each other with such force that they combine into helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy and heat. Unlike other nuclear reactions, it doesn’t create radioactive waste.