What is Fusion?
Fusion is a key element in long-term US energy plans. ITER will allow scientists to explore the physics of a burning plasma at energy densities close to that of a commercial power plant. This is a critical step towards producing and delivering electricity from fusion to the grid. Nuclear fusion occurs naturally in stars, like our sun. When hydrogen gets hot enough, the process of fusion occurs, releasing energy. On earth, producing fusion reactions by heating, compressing and confining hydrogen plasmas at 100 million degrees is a significant challenge. After years of research, scientists have learned that it is possible to create a self-heated fusion plasma and truly “bring a star to earth.” Fusion has the potential to bring clean, abundant, safe energy to most of the world’s populations. The fusion process produces no greenhouse gas emissions and generates no high-level radioactive waste. It is fueled by readily available resources: Deuterium (heavy hydrogen) is plentiful in water and tritium can be produced during the fusion process. Fusion could become a major contributor to the power grid for centuries to come.
Fusion: A Priority for the 21st Century
- National Research Council. Burning Plasma: Bringing a Star to Earth (2004): “A burning plasma experiment is the crucial next step…[and] the next scientific frontier in the quest for magnetic fusion energy…The tokamak configuration is scientifically and technically ready for a high gain burning plasma experiment.”
- IEEE-USA (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers): “IEEE-USA endorses fusion R&D, aimed at deriving the knowledge base to exploit fusion as a sustainable, carbon-free, proliferation-free, environmentally attractive and economical energy source for the future.” | position statement forthcoming
- American Nuclear Society: “The American Nuclear Society (ANS) supports a vigorous research and development program for fusion energy.” | position statement
- National Academy for Engineering. NAE identified “Providing Energy From Fusion” as one of the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century.