Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is fusion power an option?

In his TED talk plasma physicist Michel Laberge talks about the state of the art of energy production by nuclear fusion and presents an idea for a new type of nuclear reactor that could produce cheap energy.

There are two types of energy production by nuclear power, fusion and fission. All current productive nuclear power plants are based on the fission technology, which comes with the risk of thermal runaway meltdown and lots of health risks from nuclear waste.
The other type, fusion, is worth a look though. Currently there are no fusion power plants that gain more energy than is used for running the process. However, since fusion processes only take place under high temperatures, a fusion process would stop under a breach of the containment field which makes it less dangerous than fission - at least if you are not in the immediate vicinity of the reactor when this happens. Fusion power will also produce more short-term radioactive material, which will be dangerous for "only" 300 years. In contrast, current nuclear fission power plants produce material that is active for thousands of years.
Still too dangerous? Then let's have the fusion reactor installed 150 million kilometers away in space. It's called the sun.

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