Fusion As Alternative Energy Source

Nuclear fusion power is generated from fusion reaction similar to what happens inside our sun--where two light atomic nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus that release large amount of energy. The most fusion reactor designs call for a fusion source producing energy used for heating a steam turbine that used for generation electricity.

History of fusion reasearch is the Joint European Torus (JET) in 1997 produced peak electric power of 16.1 MW with sustained 10 MW of power over 0.5 second. In 2005, experimental reactor ITER was constructed to produce few times more energy than energy put into the plasma over several minutes. ITER used magnetic approach using a toroidal vacuum chamber, magnetic confinement, and radio frequency plasma heating technique.

Large tokamaks like ITER experiement have to pass several milestones for commercial power production such as burning plasma with long burn times, high power output, and online fueling. Previous tokamak machines had new problems but however high temperature plasma was not well understood. If ITER reasearch were to be successful it would be the first ever fusion comercial production demonstration system. The following challenges face with fusion comercial production such as finding a suitable "low activity" materials for reactor construction, having a practicle tritium extration sytem for secondary, and having a reactor design that allows the removal of embrittle reactor core. It is generally understood by 2030 fusion power is ready for commercial power generation based on tokamak concept.

The next generation of fusion experiment after ITER would be DEMO that would produce net electrical power. Starting around 2010 in Europe a High Power laser Energy Research facility (HiPER) is undergoing preliminary design for possible construction.

Commonly propose fusion power source is deuterium, tritium, both isotopes of hydrogen, lithium and boron. Fusion as a energy source is very sustainable:

  • If the current global energy need does not increase in the future, there are known lithium reserves that would last 3000 years.
  • If lithium from sea water used, that would last 60 million years.
  • If more complicated fusion processing using deuterium from sea water would last for 150 billion years! More than the age of universe in standard model!

Many expertsw believe fussion to be the most promising alternative energy to fosil fuel due to short life of redioactive waste, low carbon emission, and large power generation capability.