Fusion power is the most viable options for generation of huge amounts of carbon-free energy for the future. Fusion is nothing but the process used for heating the sun and other stars. The atomic nuclei of the colliding atoms combine and give out large amount of energy in the form of neutrons. Researchers and scientists are developing new technologies to use this energy for powering the future power stations. In order to get the energy from fusion, the gas with hydrogen, tritium and deuterium is heated to very high temperatures of about 100 million degrees Celsius. The conditions are achieved by using a special technique called magnetic confinement where the hot gas is controlled with the help of strong magnets. A very promising device used for creating the condition is the ‘Tokamak.’ It is a Russian word for ring-shaped chamber.
Fusion power is expected to become the major source of energy mix during the latter half of the century. With the help of proper funding, the first of its kind fusion power plant will be operational in 2040. A series of developments and other actions have to be undertaken to achieve this.
Since the world is looking forward to use the carbon-free energy source, it is better to first understand the advantages of using the fusion power. The world is looking for a green energy for all its energy requirements. There is a gradual decline in fossil fuels and growing concern over the climatic changes due to the pollution in the atmosphere. Given below are the advantages of having fusion power stations.
1. No carbon emissions: The byproducts of using the fusion power are small amounts of helium. It is an inert gas that will not cause any pollution to the environment.
2. Large supply of fuels: Deuterium can be easily extracted from water, tritium is obtained from lithium. Lithium is found in large quantities in the earth’s crust. So the supply of fuel will last for numerous years.
3. Efficiency: One kilogram of fusion fuel can produce the same amount of energy produced by 10 million kg of fossil fuel.
4. No radioactive waste: Only the plant components are known to be radioactive and they can be disposed or recycled easily within 100 years.
5. Safety: Since only small amounts of fuel will be used in the device, there will not be any large scale accidents.
6. Reliable power: The fusion power plants will be able to provide a base load supply of huge amounts of power at the same costs required for other energy sources.
The fuels for the fusion reaction are readily available because the Deuterium and Tritium are inexhaustible. Unlike the use of fossil fuels, there is no harm to the environment because there is no release of toxic gases or other materials to the environment. However, there are some disadvantages of fusion power with respect to the related processes and progress.
1. Funding: Funding is the biggest factor that is responsible for all the researches and experiments carried out in this aspect. In order to test the safety and other environmental concerns, a lot of experiments will have to be carried out in different conditions. This may need huge amounts of money from various sources.
2. Not able to show net energy gain: The researchers who are working on the fusion reaction have not been able to contain the reaction for long to get a net energy gain.
3. No breakthrough: Since no breakthrough has been reached, most of the countries researching on fusion power are phasing out of the research.
Many researches have been carried out to study the impact of fusion power on the environment and other possible risks related to the operation of large fusion power plants. Most of the results show that it is very safe and does not cause any side effects. Fusion power is a sustainable form of energy.
The only possible accident would be the accidental release of the radioactive material. However, the level of such releases may not be very huge and will not even require evacuating the local community. Other problems may be related to the malfunctioning of the devices. But the low amount of fuel used and the instant cooling, fusion power does not possess any threat to the society. Other minor issues could be related to the emissions during the operation, treatment and storage of radioactive materials produced during the operation, accident or incidents relating to the occupational well-being of the workers at the location.
The bottom line
Fusion power offers limitless fuel supply and creates no negative effects on the climate or the environment. It does not produce green house gases or other pollutants while operating. It offers a huge amount of base-load energy production without any impact on the climate or the environment.