Fusion energy has the potential to provide a sustainable solution to increasing global energy demands, as concerns grow over climate change and declining fossil fuel supplies. It can provide a continuous, sustainable baseload power supply that is environmentally sound and large-scale, using fuels that are universally available.
Fusion is the same process that gives hydrogen bombs their awesome explosive energy, and powers the sun and the stars, where atomic nuclei collide together and release energy.
Fusion scientists and engineers are developing the technology to use this process in future power stations. Fusion-based power stations would have a number of advantages:
- No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small amounts of helium, which is an inert gas that will not add to atmospheric pollution.
- Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium is produced from lithium, which is found in the earth's crust. Fuel supplies will therefore last for millions of years.
- Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel can provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel.
- No long-lived radioactive waste. Only plant components become radioactive and these will be safe to recycle or dispose of conventionally within 100 years.
- Safety. The small amounts of fuel used in fusion devices (about the weight of a postage stamp at any one time) means that a large-scale nuclear accident is not possible.
- Reliable power. Fusion power plants should provide a baseload supply of large amounts of electricity, at costs that are estimated to be broadly similar to other energy sources.
This report analyzes the fusion power technology. The report describes fusion energy, discusses the challenges with fusion energy, the workings of fusion power plants, and offers fusion energy case studies. The report also examines the environmental fallout of fusion power as well as the safety issues attached to nuclear proliferation and fusion energy.
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Publication Date: September 2010
Publisher: Energy Business Reports