10 Key Facts About Nuclear Fusion

American Security Project
Posted By Colin Taylor on Jul 09, 2014

1. Its real and it works

Fusion is the same process that powers the sun and is already being conducted in laboratories all over the world. Scientists have made exponential progress in fusion energy over the past few decades but progress was slowed by budget cuts in the 1990’s.

Further Reading: ASP’s Fusion Page

2. It has the potential to provide a nearly inexhaustible supply of energy

Fusion produces energy by fusing together two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, that are virtually inexhaustible. Deuterium comes from ocean water and tritium, though limited today, will be produced from lithium as a byproduct of the reaction. Fusion therefore holds the promise of complete energy security.

Further Reading: “Back to the future: are we about to crack energy fusion” in the Guardian

3. Fusion emits no pollutants or greenhouse gases

The only byproducts of the fusion process are helium and a fast neutron, which carries the heat to make steam, meaning there is none of the long-lived radioactive waste produced by conventional nuclear fission reactors.

Further Reading: ASP’s “Fusion Power – A 10 Year Plan to Energy Security

4. There is no threat of nuclear meltdown like there is with the nuclear fission reactors of today

Fusion does not rely upon a chain reaction so there is no chance of a runaway reaction that could lead to a meltdown. In the event of an equipment failure, the small amount of fuel available stops reacting instantly and the plant cools automatically.

Further Reading: “Provide Energy From Fusion” from the National Academy of Engineering

5. Fusion will spark monumental scientific achievements

The positive spillover effects of the U.S. fusion program are already being felt. Fusion scientists are making advancements in superconductors, super-power lasers, new high-efficiency semiconductor light sources, large and small-scale robotics, and supercomputing and modeling.

Further Reading: ASP’s “Fusion Fact Sheet”, “Technology from Fusion Research, Benefits Today

6. Fusion industry stretches across the U.S.

The fusion industry already supports thousands of jobs and businesses across the country. 47 out of 50 states support the fusion industry.

Further Reading: ASP’s “Fusion’s Reach Across America

7. The U.S. is falling behind

Despite pioneering fusion energy research, a lack of commitment risks ceding leadership to other countries. Although the National Ignition Facility currently leads the world in inertial fusion research, the magnetic fusion facilities in other countries have surpassed the technological capabilities of the best American labs.
Further Reading: “America’s Fusion Race With China Is Heating Up, So Why Is Washington Going Cold?” in Defense One

8. Fusion will give the U.S. freedom from fossil fuels

Without the need for fossil fuels, the U.S. can conduct foreign policy according to its values and interests, not according to commodity prices.

Further Reading: “Nuclear fusion is the ‘perfect energy source’” on CNN.com

9. Pioneering fusion energy will produce vast economic benefits

The establishment of a high-tech industry will bring vast new streams of revenue to America’s leading industrial companies, creating thousands of new jobs. Creating a new industry will give America a “first mover advantage” that will increase our global competitiveness with economic implications for generations.

Further Reading: “Startup nuclear energy companies augur safer, cheaper atomic power” in Fortune

10. Cutting down the time needed to develop fusion energy will require a national commitment coupled with an accelerated push to commercialization

Absent steps to accelerate fusion development, current projections estimate that commercial-scale fusion power plants could be built in the 2040’s. Yet a timeframe that always remains decades away lacks ambition and forecloses on domestic leadership. The American fusion community believes that given adequate resources, developing commercial fusion power can be achieved on an accelerated timeframe.

Further Reading: “A Challenge to America: Develop Fusion Power Within a Decade” by ASP Chairman Gary Hart and board member Norman R. Augustine in Forbes.