Nuclear Fusion = Natural Future
By: Ashley Woodward
Discovery Overview and Impact
We are glad to announce Dr. Ashley Woodward and her fellow scientists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have successfully built a reactor to harness the energy produced from nuclear fusion and had their first successful nuclear fusion reaction at 8:45AM on the 30th of April, 2016. After many improvements to their original design of the tokamak fusion test reactor (TFTR) they have finally unlocked the secret to using nuclear fusion as an energy source. Their new and improved reactor can create the necessary conditions needed to conduct nuclear fusion; it can be heated to extreme temperatures like 100 million degrees Celsius, can produce the proper density, and can confine it for long enough to allow the nuclei to fuse. Their success had opened the door to a whole new era.
Fusion power will have a huge positive economic impact, opening up a new industry and lowering power cost. Energy rates will drop dramatically once the industry is established due to its practically limitless energy supply. Fusion energy is predicted to take over and dominate the energy markets, driving our current ways of energy collection to near extinction. No other industry will be able to compete with this reliable continuous energy source. The use of fusion power plants could substantially reduce the environmental impacts of increasing world electricity demands since, like nuclear fission power, they would not contribute to acid rain or the greenhouse effect. Fusion power could easily satisfy the energy needs associated with continued economic growth, given the ready availability of fuels. There would be no danger of a runaway fusion reaction as this is intrinsically impossible and any malfunction would result in a rapid shutdown of the plant. Fusion power offers the prospect of an almost inexhaustible source of energy for future generations.
THE ENERGY INDUSTRY WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
Fusion vs. Fission
Fusion powers the Sun and stars as hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium, and matter is converted into energy. Hydrogen, heated to very high temperatures changes from a gas to a plasma in which the negatively-charged electrons are separated from the positively-charged atomic nuclei (ions). when the temperature increases, causing the ions to move faster and eventually reach speeds high enough to bring the ions close enough together. The nuclei can then fuse, causing a release of energy.
Fission is different from the process of fusion, when two nuclei join together rather than split apart. Nuclear fission is when an atom splits into two parts and releases energy, used to generate energy within a nuclear power plant. It has great potential as a source of power, but it also has a number of safety, environmental, and political concerns. The fission process creates a significant amount of nuclear waste that can be hazardous to both people and the environment.
Fusion Safety Concerns
While fusion is less dangerous and more environmentally friendly than fission there are still things to be concerned about. Fusion will create a short- to medium-term radioactive waste problem due to activation of the structural materials. There are also other concerns, principally regarding the possible release of tritium into the environment. It is radioactive and very difficult to contain since it can penetrate concrete, rubber and some grades of steel. Also the cost and complexity of the devices is a concern.