Later today, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy will make an important nuclear fusion announcement.

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A $3.5 billion laser complex called the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is where the accomplishment was made.

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The NIF has been unable to produce a fusion reaction that produces more energy than it uses for more than ten years.

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But on December 5, in the middle of night, that changed. At one in the morning local time, scientists zapped a small hydrogen fuel pellet with laser beams.

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According to those acquainted with the outcome, the energy output was much more than the energy input from the lasers

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But even with this announcement, independent scientists believe that dream remains many decades away.

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Unless there's an even larger breakthrough, fusion is unlikely to play a major role in power production before the 2060s or 2070s,

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says Tony Roulstone, a nuclear engineer at Cambridge University in the U.K., who's done an economic analysis of fusion power.

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