Nuclear Fusion: The Answer to Energy Crisis

Stars, including our sun, are alive only because of one fascinating concept: nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which the nuclei of two or more atoms fuse together to form a heavier nucleus; this produces astonishing quantities of heat and energy. However, these reactions also need substantial amounts of heat and pressure to take place.
A fusion reaction occurs in a state of matter known as plasma, existing either at low pressures or very high temperatures. In order to implement nuclear fusion on Earth, we would need nuclei to collide with each other at temperatures over 10 million degrees Celsius to enable them to overcome their mutual electrical repulsion and allow them to fuse. To do this, the nuclei must be contained within a limited space to enhance the likelihood of a collision.
High temperatures and extreme pressures in the sun allow this to occur; however, since recreating such conditions is extremely difficult to create on Earth, the chances of seeing the use of nuclear fusion in the near future as a source of energy are very low. The amount of energy produced, on the other hand, is enough to incentivize us to work towards overcoming this challenge.
Nuclear fusion can provide four times as much energy as nuclear fission and four million times more energy than resources like coal. Therefore, if we can harness the power of nuclear fusion, we could be able to provide clean, safe energy for millions of years.
Nuclear fusion and plasma physics research is conducted in more than 50 countries, led by the European Union, the USA, Russia, and Japan; fusion reactions have been successfully achieved in many experiments, albeit without demonstrating a net fusion power gain.
Fusion fuel is abundant and simple to obtain: deuterium can be harvested cheaply from seawater, while tritium can be made from readily available lithium. As for wasteful products, future fusion reactors will not produce long-lasting nuclear waste, and a fusion reactor meltdown is very unlikely. Moreover, nuclear fusion does not generate carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It hence could potentially play a role in future climate change mitigation as a low carbon energy source alongside nuclear fission.
While the efforts by scientists are promising, nuclear fusion has not shown any practical benefits so far. So far, no one has been able to extract more energy from a fusion experiment than they put in. The majority of experts believe the concept will succeed, but many believe it will be an issue of scale.Prof. Ian Chapman from UKAEA spoke about the subject, “I think fusion needs resources to really make it work. You could do that within a company or a country but you really need to have the requisite scale and resources.”
Nuclear fusion is a viable solution to today’s energy problem. A practical fusion reactor that outputs more energy than it consumes could be possible within the next few years and would be enough to meet humanity’s needs for many generations.
Daniyal Mubashar Khan,
Lahore

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