Wisconsin reacts to breakthrough in nuclear fusion research

NOW: Wisconsin reacts to breakthrough in nuclear fusion research

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The announcement Tuesday of a "net energy gain" using thermonuclear fusion at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California was met with excitement across the world, including Wisconsin.

UWM Physics Professor Doctor Philip Chang marveled at the conditions that were reproduced in a lab.

"The conditions achieved is far more extreme than the sun," he said. "The density is 100-times that of lead, the temperature is about 10-times hotter than the center of the sun."

For that reason, and others, Chang says using this type of fusion as a clean energy source is likely decades away. But he says a fusion-powered future is coming.

"In terms of the physics, we are basically there, and the rest of it, at some level, is just engineering," he said.

At Shine Fusion in Janesville, the future is now. They not only conduct fusion reactions on a regular basis, CEO Greg Piefer says they also make money off of them.

"In particular, we're focused on particles called neutrons," he said.

Piefer says neutrons gained from fusion reactions can be used in imaging, help create cancer-curing medicine, and will soon be used to clean up nuclear waste. He says the breakthrough in California is the next step toward a "fusion age."

"It's a transformational moment for all of society when we start to master fusion, and it's super exciting," he said.

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