A step closer to fusion reactors (hopefully)
I started this yesterday, but didn’t get around to posting. Anyway, here goes.
A running joke in physics is that a practical fusion reactor is only twenty years away – but people have been saying that for about 20-30 years. That said, ITER have come a bit closer (not too sure about the title, however).
Personally, I think whoever DOES make the first working fusion reactor deserves a Nobel Prize. Unlike nuclear fission, which is what all nuclear power plants use, nuclear fusion doesn’t have the same (admittedly unlikely) chance to “go nuclear”. The main reason for this is that fusion requires a lot of heat and some isotopes of hydrogen – the most promising is the deuterium-tritium reaction, which involves 2H and 3H. Tritium is radioactive and has to be produced in a laboratory, but that can be done. Neither applies to deuterium, in fact approximately 0.0015% of all hydrogen is deuterium, so it can be easily found in seawater.
Another reason fusion is inherently safer than fission is that it requires high temperatures. To sustain a chain reaction, it requires a plasma of at least 2000°C – I could be way off here, I’m just going off the top of my head – and if the reaction looks like it’s getting out of control, the heating element can be simply turned off.
Here’s a Youtube video on ITER in the south of France. They’re aren’t expected to produce their first plasma until 2018, and it will probably require ten years testing to make sure. So they’re still about 20 years away.