Fusion: Bringing the Sun Down to Earth
Planned to begin operation in 2021, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) will be performing nuclear fusion experiments with comparable importance to the experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. All nuclear power plants today are fission plants, because the technology for fusion does not exist yet. If sustained fusion can be achieved at ITER, it would be undeniable progress towards sustainable nuclear power.
Fusion, unlike conventional fission, is clean power. Fusion takes a form of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, and turns it into helium, which there is a global shortage of. The helium is made from forcing hydrogen nuclei close enough together until they fuse. When hydrogen fuses energy is given off in the form of light. There are no radioactive byproducts that need to be sarcophagus'd and given to future generations to deal with.
Fusion will also make nuclear terrorism more difficult. Nukes use fission material to start the big boom that is a fusion reaction. If fission power plants become replaced by fusion ones, there will be less fission material in the public sector that can be had by terrorists to make nuclear weapons.
I wrote about this because I feel that we need to be educated on the difference between the two types of power. Stigma towards fission power plants is appropriate, while stigma towards fusion is not. Fusion good. Fission bad.
-The temperature of the plasma within ITER will be ten times the heat of the sun's core. That's 15 million times 10 for a whooping 150,000,000 degrees Celsius!
-35 nations are collaborating on this project, and it looks like it will end up costing upwards of 15 billion euros.
-The maximum size of the plasma is about 26,000 gallons.
-No nuclear melt downs. If the reaction chamber were to become breached, the plasma would cool very quickly.