Nuclear Fusion is the Energy of the Future and Here’s Why

Inspire52 Rey Vergara Jan. 13, 2016

The world is adversely changing, and it seems like the future of our children are bleak at best. Humans have abused Mother Nature to the point that it has endangered our possibility of a better tomorrow. Climate change has been accelerated due to man’s non-stop usage of fossil fuels to power economies and development.

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Sufficient energy source is a necessity for development and progress. And our current main source of energy are fossil fuels. This, however, is not a sustainable supply. It has deteriorated the very place we live in and it too is not limitless. Eventually, we will run out of fossil fuels and it would be too late to find a better alternative source if we don’t find it now.

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A group of scientists has been exploring alternative sources of energy which are not only sustainable, but almost limitless. They have been looking into the feasibility of Nuclear Fusion as the source of clean, viable energy. And it looks like they are on to something. However, there is a stigma when “nuclear” is mentioned beside any term. But, it’s not frightening as the word connotes. Let’s know more about Nuclear Fusion and what it means to mankind’s future.

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What is Fusion?

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Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei come close and then collide at a very high speed and very high temperature environment to form a new nucleus. It is the process that drives our sun and all the stars in our universe. If you are amazed at the brightness of our stars, you have nuclear fusion to thank that for. We should also be thankful, because it is the source of energy that makes all life on Earth possible. The atoms which are generally used to generate energy from nuclear fusion are two Hydrogen isotopes – Deuterium and Tritium. This is done at extremely high temperatures and pressures. And because of these conditions, gas becomes the 4th state of matter, plasma which is incidentally an ‘electrically-charged gas’. When the nucleus of Deuterium and Tritium fuse, it forms a Helium nucleus, a neutron and tons of energy.

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How is this done?

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There have been a lot of attempts to consistently achieve nuclear fusion by scientists. They have built devices to replicate the extreme temperatures produced by the sun. The most effective device currently used is the ‘tokamak’, a Russian word for a torus-shaped magnetic chamber. A tokamak is used to minimize the thermal loss through a magnetic field. This magnetic field keeps the hot fuel particles away from the walls of the container. Nuclear fusion is now feasible and could power the world indefinitely.

Fusion vs Fission

There are fear and apprehensions surrounding Nuclear fusion because it might do more harm than good. But unlike its counterpart, Nuclear Fission, fusion is a lot safer. Fission is the process that splits a large atom into two or more smaller atoms, whereas fusion is the fusing of these atoms to create a new one (e.g. Deuterium + Tritium = Helium). Unlike fusion, fission does not occur naturally. And because both processes contain the term ‘nuclear’, we immediately presume that they could cause radioactive harm. Fusion produces few radioactive particles, whereas fission mainly produces radioactive particles. The energy released by nuclear fusion is three to four times greater than the energy released by nuclear fission making it the better choice for a sustainable future. With the differences identified, it is clear that nuclear fusion is not only the safer option, it is the better option.

Nuclear fusion is the energy source of the future. With global warming looming and shortage of fossil fuels, the present main source of energy, inevitable, it is high time that a more viable energy source is pursued. Here are a few advantages that shifting from fossil fuel to nuclear fusion has:

Low Cost

The energy produced by nuclear fusion is inexpensive and developing countries can easily afford them. With an estimated cost of 3 cents per kilowatt hour, it’s a far cry comparison when it comes to cost from other current source of energy. With rising power costs, being able to achieve viable power at a relatively cheaper price is something to look forward to.

Easily Controlled

Nuclear fusion is the process that collides two atoms, fuse them, and create a new one, it is easier to control compared to splitting them. With the process, there is lower chances of a chain reaction occurring. It is also safer than any other nuclear energy forms.

Zero to Minimal Waste

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With the current process of Nuclear Fusion used, the only by-product is Helium – a safe, non-toxic atom. Unlike fission, radioactive particles are minimized if not, totally eliminated from the process of nuclear fusion. Radioactive wastes are very harmful to the environment and to humans, which is why having a source of nuclear energy that is safe is something to look forward to.

Unlimited Fuel

The main ingredient currently used by scientists to perform nuclear fusion is Deuterium, which is distilled in sea water. This means that because of this unlimited supply of Deuterium, a sustainable source of energy can be achieved.

No Green House Gases

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Because of the greenhouses gases produced by burning fossil fuels, the world is being endangered of an accelerated global warming. This consequently endangers all life living on it. However, using nuclear fusion, this can be directly addressed. Because using nuclear fusion does not produce harmful greenhouse gases, it is the appropriate alternative which addresses both global warming issues and viability.

We are running out of time. And if there is a more critical time to act, it is now. If nothing is done now, nothing can ever be done to reverse the dire consequences. Nuclear fusion addresses our problems with climate change and also sustainability. Here’s a parting statement from Nathan Gillian, the CEO of General Fusion, “We’re gonna have abundant energy for the world forever. It changes the dynamic of poverty, changes our need for fossil fuels. It may sound that I’m overstating it, but it will change humanity forever.”