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WHAT-IS-FUSION

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					                            WHAT IS FUSION?
Fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars. It is the
reaction in which two atoms of hydrogen combine together, or fuse,                                                                           n
                                                                                               Deuterium         P
to form an atom of helium. In the process some of the mass of the
                                                                                                            n                                    Neutron
hydrogen is converted into energy. The easiest fusion reaction to make
                                                                                                                         Fusion
happen is combining deuterium (or “heavy hydrogen) with tritium (or
“heavy-heavy hydrogen”) to make helium and a neutron. Deuterium is                                          n                           n        P
                                                                                                                     P
plentifully available in ordinary water. Tritium can be produced by                                          n                          P        n
combining the fusion neutron with the abundant light metal lithium.
                                                                                                 Tritium                                    Helium
Thus fusion has the potential to be an inexhaustible source of energy.

To make fusion happen, the atoms of hydrogen must be heated to
                                                                                                       n   He
very high temperatures (100 million degrees) so they are ionized
(forming a plasma) and have sufficient energy to fuse, and then be held
                                                                                 D   T
                                                                                                      E=mc2
                                                 together i.e. confined,
                                                 long enough for fusion
            Magnetic
                                                 to occur. The sun and
          Confinement                Magnetic    stars do this by gravity.
    Nucleus                           Field
                                                 More practical approaches on earth are magnetic
       +
                                                 confinement, where a strong magnetic field holds the ionized
                                      Intense
                                      Energy     atoms together while they are heated by microwaves or other
       -
   Electron                            Beams     energy sources, and inertial confinement, where a tiny pellet of
                                                 frozen hydrogen is compressed and heated by an intense energy
                           Fuel
                          Pellet                 beam, such as a laser, so quickly that fusion occurs before the
                Sun                              atoms can fly apart.

                                   Inertial      Who cares? Scientists have sought to make fusion work on
                                 Confinement     earth for over 40 years. If we are successful, we will have an
          Gravitational
           Confinement                           energy source that is inexhaustible. One out of every 6500
                                                 atoms of hydrogen in ordinary water is deuterium, giving a
gallon of water the energy content of 300 gallons of gasoline. In addition, fusion would be environmentally
friendly, producing no combustion products or greenhouse gases. While fusion is a nuclear process, the
products of the fusion reaction (helium and a neutron) are not radioactive, and with proper design a fusion
power plant would be passively safe, and would
produce no long-lived radioactive waste. Design           Fusion
studies show that electricity from fusion should          Power
                                                                                                   ITER     Power
be about the same cost as present day sources.             1,000
                                                                                                            Plant
                                                       MWth 100                                TFTR/JET
                                                               10                                  TFTR
We’re getting close! While fusion sounds                     1,000                             JET
simple, the details are difficult and exacting.        kWth 100
                                                                                        JET/TFTR
                                                                                          TFTR          JT–60U
Heating, compressing and confining hydrogen                  10
                                                                                                                                                     House
                                                                                                           DIII–D
plasmas at 100 million degrees is a significant              1,000            PDX              DIII                         Achieved (DD)
challenge. A lot of science and engineering                   100           PLT                                             Achieved (DT)            Light
                                                       Wth     10                            Alcator C                      Projected (DT)           Bulb
had to be learned to get fusion to where we are
                                                                 1
today. Both magnetic and inertial fusion pro-                        1970       1980                  1990               2000                2010
grams expect to build their next experiments             Alcator C: Massachusetts Institute                JET: Joint European Torus
that will reach ignition and produce more energy                    of Technology
                                                                                                           JT–60U: Japanese Tokamak Experiment
than they consume shortly after the year 2000.           DIII & DIII–D: General Atomics
                                                                                                           TFTR: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
                                                                        Tokamak Experiment
If all goes well, commercial application should                                                            PDX: Princeton Divertor Project
                                                         ITER: International Thermonuclear
be possible by about 2020, providing                           Experiment Reactor                          PLT: Princeton Large Tokamak
humankind a safe, clean, inexhaustible energy
source for the future.

				
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