US energy officials announce fusion success ‘that could revolutionize the world’
The United States has taken “the first tentative steps towards a clean energy source that could revolutionize the world” through a successful fusion experiment, announced Jill Hruby, the under secretary for nuclear security.
The breakthrough came after an experiment that saw “192 high-energy lasers converge on a target about the size of a peppercorn, heating a capsule of deuterium and tritium to over three million degrees Celsius and briefly simulating the conditions of a star and achieving ignition.”
Speaking earlier, the White House science chief, Arati Prabhakar, gave a one-sentence summary of what scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved: “They shot a bunch of lasers at a pellet of fuel and more energy was released from that fusion ignition than the energy of the lasers.”
The energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, is making her announcement of a “major scientific breakthrough”, reportedly a successful fusion reaction.
Follow this blog for the latest on the speech as it happens, or you can watch it on the live feed embedded above.
Founder of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX Samuel Bankman-Fried was supposed to testify before Congress today, but he won’t be making it. He was arrested yesterday in the Bahamas, and is now in deep legal trouble, the Guardian’s Alex Hern reports:
Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former chief executive of the crypto exchange FTX, has been charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission with defrauding investors in the company.
The SEC said: “The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Samuel Bankman-Fried with orchestrating a scheme to defraud equity investors in FTX Trading Ltd, the crypto trading platform of which he was the CEO and co-founder. Investigations as to other securities law violations and into other entities and persons relating to the alleged misconduct are ongoing.”
The SEC said Bankman-Fried concealed his diversion of FTX customers’ funds to Alameda Research, FTX’s crypto hedge fund, while raising more than $1.8bn (£1.5bn) from investors, including about $1.1bn from about 90 US-based investors.
Biden to speak after data shows surprise inflation drop
The White House has announced Joe Biden will speak about his “efforts to tackle inflation” at 10 am, after government data showed consumer prices rose by less than expected in November.
Inflation has climbed at rates not seen since the 1980s since Biden took office, fueled by a combination of factors including pandemic-caused supply chain snarls, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, low interest rates and demand from US consumers. The price growth has become a major liability for Biden, and is seen as one reason why his approval rating with voters has been underwater for more than a year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today was generally positive, but contained some hard truths for the world’s largest economy: while prices grew less than expected last month in a sign that inflation could be on its way to becoming markedly lower, Americans were still paying high prices for housing, food and other essentials.
Here’s more on the data from the Guardian’s Dominic Rushe:
The cost of living continued to rise at levels unseen in decades in November, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday, but the rate of inflation does appear to be finally slowing.
The latest consumer price index (CPI) figures – which measure a broad range of goods and services – showed prices rising by 7.1% from last November with a 0.1% increase from October.
The latest annual rise was lower than expected and is down from 9.1% in June, the highest rate in more than 40 years, but is still more than three times higher than the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2%.
The Fed has been hiking interest rates at the fastest pace since the 1980s as it seeks to slow the economy and bring prices down. It is expected to announce another rate rise on Wednesday, its eighth consecutive increase.
The latest dip in the rate of inflation was helped by falling gas prices – once one of the biggest drivers of rising prices. But US consumers continued to experience soaring costs for services such as healthcare, rents and eating out. Housing costs were by far the largest contributor to the monthly increase, more than offsetting decreases in energy indexes.
Joe Biden has made transitioning the United States away from fossil fuels a major priority of his administration, and the reported breakthrough in fusion energy will no doubt be a happy surprise. But as the Guardian’s Nicola Davis reports, it could be a long time before the technological advance is put to practical use:
Researchers have reportedly made a breakthrough in the quest to unlock a “near-limitless, safe, clean” source of energy: they have got more energy out of a nuclear fusion reaction than they put in.
Nuclear fusion involves smashing together light elements such as hydrogen to form heavier elements, releasing a huge burst of energy in the process. The approach, which gives rise to the heat and light of the sun and other stars, has been hailed as having huge potential as a sustainable, low-carbon energy source.
However, since nuclear fusion research began in the 1950s, researchers have been unable to a demonstrate a positive energy gain, a condition known as ignition.
That was, it seems, until now.
US expected to announce ‘major scientific breakthrough’ of fusion success
Good morning, US politics blog readers. This morning, we’re expected to hear details of what the Biden administration has dubbed a “major scientific breakthrough”, reportedly the success of a fusion experiment that produced more energy than was put in. While this would be a major development in the world of clean energy, don’t expect it to become widely used anytime soon, likely not for years. We will find out more when energy secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks at 10am eastern time.
There is plenty of other news expected today:
Joe Biden will sign the Respect for Marriage Act protecting same-sex and interracial marriage rights in a White House ceremony at 3:30 pm, alongside Kamala Harris and both their spouses.
FTX founder Samuel Bankman-Fried will testify before the House Financial Services committee, wait, no he won’t, he was arrested last night by police in the Bahamas at the behest of the United States. The collapsed cryptocurrency exchange’s current CEO John Ray III will appear as scheduled at the 10 am hearing.
The US-Africa Leaders Summit begins in Washington, where Biden will welcome top officials from dozens of African countries.