LONDON, England: European scientists have announced that they have made a major breakthrough in their efforts to develop practical nuclear fusion.
The UK-based Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory surpassed its own world record for the amount of energy extracted by combining two forms of hydrogen.
If nuclear fusion can be successfully recreated, it has the potential to provide virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon, low-radiation energy.
The experiments produced 11 megawatts of power over five seconds, more than double achieved in similar tests in 1997.
Dr. Joe Milnes, the head of operations at the JET reactor lab, said, "The JET experiments put us a step closer to fusion power," as reported by the BBC.
The ITER facility in southern France, supported by world governments, including EU member states, the U.S., China and Russia, is expected to be the last step in proving that nuclear fusion can reliably provide energy in the second half of this century.
Rather than splitting atoms, as in the case of the fission reactions that power existing nuclear energy stations, fusion works on the principle that energy can be released by forcing together atomic nuclei.
The JET lab, located in Culham, Oxfordshire, has been pioneering this method of fusion for nearly 40 years.
Dr. Arthur Turrell, author of The Star Builders: Nuclear Fusion And The Race To Power The Planet, noted, "This is a stunning result, because they managed to demonstrate the greatest amount of energy output from the fusion reactions of any device in history."
Many technical challenges also remain, which are being worked on in Europe by the Eurofusion consortium, which is made up of some 5,000 science and engineering experts from the EU, Switzerland and Ukraine.