Is Nuclear Fusion a Feasible Source of Power?
Nuclear fusion may be an effective solution to the energy problem in today?s
world. Fusion is environmentally friendly and has the potential to generate massive
amounts of power. It is evident that the Sun?s power is fueled by nuclear fusion. Recent
advancements such as ITER and NIF may bring us closer to being able to use fusion. We
find that nuclear fusion is a long-term solution to a continuing problem.
Since the Industrial Age, energy from fossil fuels has become widespread. In
recent times, the depletion of fossil fuels is forcing humanity to search for other
alternatives, such as nuclear fusion. Fusion has been an attractive method of energy for a
long time. In 1982, Princeton University experimented with the magnetic confinement
Tokamak: a donut shaped accelerator designed to create massive amounts of heat. In
1998, JET built on the technology to create the largest Tokamak ever made. The ITER
(International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project is currently working on a
colossal undertaking to create a Tokamak that can produce more energy than it consumes.
This project combines the efforts of many nations and will be constructed in class.
Meanwhile, the NIF (National Ignition Facility) in Livermore is attempting to use lasers
to generate a completely different fusion: inertial confinement fusion. Both ITER and
NIF are slated for completion in 2030.
Fusion is a difficult hurdle for scientists to tackle because scientists cannot
currently find a method to produce more energy than the process consumes. The JET is
the most cost effective fusion reactor in terms of power. However, the ratio of energy
production to energy consumption (Q) is .7. Fusion itself takes a huge amount of heat to
initiate and a very large application of energy to contain. Scientists aim to gain
knowledge and improve the power output, the time duration, and the energy cost.
Nuclear fusion is a process that occurs when two hydrogen isotopes (tritium and
deuterium) fuse together. This reaction produces a neutron and also a large amount of
energy. However, a massive amount of heat is necessary for the reaction to initiate
because the nuclei (which have very strong opposing charges) must fuse together. The
temperature necessary for this to occur is over one hundred million degrees Kelvin. When
the reaction occurs, the energy is so great that it is very difficult to contain. So far the
known methods of containment are magnetic confinement and inertial confinement. The
magnetic confinement uses a very powerful magnetic field, and the inertial confinement
uses the inertia of the reaction.
(Figure 1, wikipedia, ?nuclear
We will investigate published literature that either supports or reflects if fusion is
feasible. We believe fusion would be a feasible source of power if it could produce
reasonably more energy that is put in.
Results and Discussion