Super nuclear fusion: the energy of the future?

As Europe battles with a sharp rise in gas and oil prices, researchers have achieved a breakthrough on the path to generating emissions-free energy through nuclear fusion. Scientists working on the world's biggest fusion research experiment, Joint European Torus (JET), at the Culham Centre for Fusion Research in the UK have achieved a record release of energy in a five-second 'pulse'. Europe's press discusses ways out of the energy and climate crisis.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Keep all options open

Even if nuclear fusion is still far from being market-ready, the developments show that it is a worthwhile goal, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“These advances bolster confidence that sooner or later fusion will succeed. To combat the climate crisis, fossil power plants must be replaced immediately, not in the distant future. So for the time being renewables are the only viable option. But it may well be that in a few decades we will be glad to have another option. We should definitely keep it open, even if it requires a lot of time and effort.”

The Guardian (GB) /

A landmark in history

Nuclear fusion has a future and will bring humanity forward, The Guardian comments enthusiastically:

“It's time to get excited about star power. Technology and research have always been the key to growing human wealth and prosperity. If fusion energy can be successfully rolled out, it will be a landmark in human history akin to the adoption of electricity or the invention of powered flight. Because our need for clean energy is acute, the sooner it does come, the better. ... And, as with any technology, progress doesn't come with the passage of the years but with investment and societal will. With both, fusion could arrive sooner than we expect.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Bezos and Gates are already investing

It won't be long before fusion creates energy on a large-scale, The Daily Telegraph believes:

“Piercing the gloom surrounding the shift to non-carbon energy sources and the transitional costs involved is a glimmer of light. While it remains tiny - sufficient only to boil 60 kettles - it is double what was previously achieved. ... Nor is this a flash in the pan. Recent results at MIT in Boston have encouraged scientists there to conclude that nuclear fusion can be used to power electricity grids within the next decade. Investors, including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, are ploughing billions into funding the development of nuclear fusion energy machines in the expectation of early returns.”

Les Echos (FR) /

A challenge for French engineers

France's new energy strategy put the focus on the construction of six EPR2 nuclear reactors, lifespan extensions for existing nuclear power plants and renewable energies. This is an ambitious plan, Les Echos concludes:

“The industry hopes that the first EPR will be in operation by 2035. In reality, no one can tell for sure. Between the delay in starting up offshore wind power, the vague promises about future reactors and the repeated problems with current ones, the next few years are likely to be critical, with production only just above consumption. ... In the end, the president's speech has one merit: it was about finding a way to reconcile decarbonisation with independence. ... Now it is up to the engineers to prove that they can master the industrial challenge.”

Le Monde (FR) /

A fatal gamble

Macron's strategy will not stand the test of time, Green presidential candidate Yannick Jadot criticises in Le Monde:

“The president is overstepping his mandate by planning a huge energy project without any certainty as to the total cost, without a solution to our nuclear waste disposal deadlock and without any guarantee regarding implementation deadlines, even though the climate crisis demands that we act quickly. He is taking an irrational gamble that will bind us in the long term. ... Emmanuel Macron is playing the illusionist because he is in the midst of an election campaign. Instead of focusing on energy saving and renewable energies, he is condemning France to energy drunkenness and rising energy bills.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Nuclear energy that really is clean

Physicist and nuclear expert Piero Martin explains the importance of the technology in La Stampa:

“It facilitates safe, continuous, large-scale production of CO2-free electricity without producing radioactive long-time waste. ... The results presented yesterday are an important step towards the use of nuclear fusion on Earth. ... Jet is not only the world's largest fusion experiment currently in operation, it is also the only one currently capable of conducting experiments with the exact fuel mixture that will be used in future reactors. Unlike nuclear fission, fusion reaction releases energy by combining light nuclei, which means no long-time radioactive waste is produced.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A new world

This is the dawn of a new era, comments La Repubblica with enthusiasm:

“Five seconds that could change the history of humanity in terms of science and energy needs. We will no longer have to worry about high electricity bills or gas prices because if nuclear fusion works it will guarantee us almost unlimited and, above all, clean electricity with very low CO2 emissions. Although we are still far from the final result and need to find immediate answers to the climate and energy crisis, what has happened at the Jet (Joint European Tourous) plant in England is a big step towards nuclear fusion for commercial purposes.”

The Sun (GB) /

Utopian promises about climate neutrality

The Sun says it's good that the UK is still focusing on the exploitation of new oil and gas fields as energy sources:

“Soaring energy bills should shortly sober up any remaining holdouts still drunk on utopian promises from Cop26. Our energy future is in disarray. We are horribly exposed to the cost and stability of imports. We cannot power ourselves solely on wind, solar and our dwindling, dilapidated nuclear plants. And demands by Labour and eco ­zealots to go further, faster on Net Zero are deranged. ... But we will need a lot more gas in the decades before we finally eliminate emissions. ... Fracking is still a vast, untapped opportunity. The Government must face down the scaremongers and seize it.”

The Times (GB) /

A comprehensive plan for net zero needed

To stop aiming for climate neutrality would be a mistake, warns The Times:

“The transition to clean energy is happening anyway. ... Abandoning ambitious targets risks not only leaving Britain ill prepared but denying the country the opportunities in terms of jobs and investment arising from the transition to new technology. What is needed instead is a comprehensive plan to deliver on net-zero targets. That means a plan to fix the problems in the domestic gas market; a plan for the rapid expansion in renewables and nuclear to reduce reliance on gas; ... and realistic plans to decarbonise homes, industry, transport and farming.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Better to depend on wind power than other sources

Wind power offers both economic and security policy advantages, Anna Kornecka, former Polish deputy minister for devlopment, labour and technology, argues in Rzeczpospolita:

“Many of us are now asking why we should rely on wind power when it's an unstable source of energy. Last autumn saw a windless period, with correspondingly low output from this energy source. However, at a time when electricity and gas prices are skyrocketing, wind power represents one of the elements of a modern energy system that can bring concrete economic benefits in the long term. And it can also help to reinforce our independence and energy security.”