Nuclear Fusion

Another possible option is nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion involves the fusing of nuclei of light elements into heavier ones. In the process, energy is released. Research into the development of nuclear fusion has been ongoing since the 1950s. Despite this long history and considerable support worldwide, harnessing nuclear fusion for peaceful purposes has proven extremely difficult. The big advantage to nuclear fusion is it uses isotopes of hydrogen, one of which is commonly found in seawater, deuterium. As envisioned, a deuterium nucleus would be fused together with another isotope of hydrogen, tritium, releasing energy. The process requires the creation of a plasma, a very high temperature gas-like state of matter. The temperatures needed to create a plasma and to produce fusion are extremely high, comparable to those found on the sun. Technologically, confining a plasma at such high temperatures for a long enough time has proven a daunting task. It is expected though that in the next few years, the ITER9 project (Iter, Latin meaning "the way") currently under construction in Europe will demonstrate the feasibility of harnessing fusion energy as a commercial energy source. ITER is a full-scale fusion reactor intended to produce more energy from fusion than is consumed in creating the plasma. It will be capable of operating at fusion power levels of up to 500 MW and at conditions prototypical of an electrical generating fusion reactor. The first plasma is expected to be produced in ITER in 2018. Even if successful, full-scale deployment of commercial fusion reactors would likely not occur for several decades.

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