U.S. senators from both parties introduced legislation this week to aimed at accelerating power plants run by nuclear fusion. The news was first reported by Reuters.

The bill was introduced by Senators Alex Padilla, a Democrat, John Cornyn, a Republican, among others.

The Fusion Energy Act would enable the development of regulatory framework under the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, aimed at supporting the growth of commercial fusion. It would also require the NRC to report to Congress within a year about licensing commercial fusion plants.

A similar bill has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nuclear fusion occurs when two atoms combine to form a single atom. The combined atom has less mass than the original two atoms, with large amounts of energy released in the process.

Fusion is considered the holy grail of clean energy because of its potential to produce nearly limitless, carbon-free energy. But getting energy from fusion – the process that powers the sun and stars – has been a great challenge on Earth. Scientists have been trying to replicate it as far back as the 1930s.

But there have been recent breakthroughs. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California for the first time produced more energy in a nuclear fusion reaction than was used to ignite it, a long-sought accomplishment known as net energy gain.

The extremely brief fusion reaction, which used 192 lasers and temperatures measured at multiple times hotter than the center of the sun, was achieved Dec. 5, 2022.

In August 2023, the laboratory said it had achieved net energy gain once again.

Achieving net energy gain has been challenging because fusion happens at such high temperatures and pressures that it is incredibly difficult to control.

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