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[Energy] #3 Nuclear fusion, clean energy of the future

by Eco Generation | 27-03-2020 15:55 Comments 8 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations

Nuclear fusion, clean energy of the future



By Science Columnist Ho-Gwan Ko



Nuclear power is an important source of electricity in many countries. Unlike fossil fuel-fired power generation, it does not emit carbon dioxide or cause global warming. It can also generate a lot of electricity with a small amount of fuel.

However, nuclear power has a fatal drawback. If an accident occurs, a catastrophic disaster can happen, just like at Chernobyl or Fukushima. Radioactive materials released from nuclear power plants have had harmful effects on the environment and the human body for decades.

For now, we do not have a feasible solution for the disposal of waste generated from nuclear power plants. Because of the radiation, we cannot throw it away just like regular waste. In particular, the toxicity of high-level radioactive waste does not dissipate for hundreds of thousands of years. Research on how to bury it deep underground has been underway, but we cannot guarantee that we will be able to manage it properly after hundreds of years, let alone tens of thousands of years. Today, we store it in nuclear power plants, but it is necessary to find a proper way to deal with it as soon as possible.

Nuclear fusion has been studied in order to replace thermal power, which accelerates global warming, and nuclear power, which has radioactive waste issues. While nuclear power uses the energy generated when heavy elements split into light elements, fusion power produces electricity using the energy generated when light elements fuse into heavy elements.

Nuclear fusion takes the same principle that stars like the sun make energy. In the center of the sun, the fusion of light elements such as hydrogen and helium generates tremendous energy. The inside of the sun itself can be seen as a huge fusion reactor. Therefore, the nuclear fusion reactor that artificially causes fusion reaction is also called an“artificial sun.”

An atomic nucleus has a positive charge (+). Thus, nuclei push each other apart when they get closer. Where temperatures and pressures are extremely high like inside the sun, however, nuclei can overcome the repulsive power and fuse each other.

Light elements fuse into heavier elements. However, the sum of the masses of individual light elements before fusion is not equal to the mass of a new heavy element. For example, two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium, are fused to form helium whose mass is smaller than the sum of the masses of deuterium and tritium.

Then, where does the missing mass go? The mass is converted into energy according to Einstein's famous formula, E=mc^2, where E is the energy, c is the speed of light, and m is the mass that disappears. Just a little mass converted into energy results in a huge amount. From this point on, it goes the same as thermal or nuclear power generation. This energy is used to boil water, and the turbines are run using steam to produce electricity.

Compared to nuclear power, the difference lies on whether it is nuclear fission or fusion, but the results are very different. As for nuclear fission, it causes a chain reaction. Therefore, it is required to control it not to be split too quickly. An atomic bomb is basically nuclear fission happening too fast.

In contrast, nuclear fusion is a reaction that is very hard to achieve, because it requires as high pressure and temperature as the sun. It never happens in the ordinary environment of the Earth. As such, even if an accident or breakdown occurs during a fusion reaction, the reaction simply stops, and no major accident happens.

In addition, it is a very clean energy source compared with thermal power and nuclear power. It emits no carbon dioxide and produces very little radioactive waste. In addition, one of the nuclear fusion methods, the fusion of deuterium and helium-3, produces little pollution.

Although helium-3 is not abundant on this planet, it is on the moon; this drawback can be overcome by exploring the moon. One of the reasons that scientists would like to develop the moon is helium-3. Even if we cannot go to the moon, the commercialization of fusion power technology will ease our worries about energy; the plentiful hydrogen in the sea will reduce the application of thermal and nuclear power.

Scientists are working on a range of ways to drive fusion reactions that cannot occur in our global environment. For instance, Korea has been studying nuclear fusion technology using “tokamak.” The Korean nuclear fusion research reactor called KSTAR is a tokamak method, and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which was built in France by Korea, the United States, Europe, and Russia, also will be based on the same method.


ITER Tokamak and Plant system▲ A conceptual diagram of ITER in which Korea has also participated.

     (Source: ITER Tokamak and Plant Systems)



Tokamak is a container in the shape of a donut. Nuclear fusion requires the creation of ultra-high temperature plasma at over 100 million degrees Celsius, which is too hot to contain in any container. Thus, a magnetic field is used to let it spin around in the donut-shaped container.

When will an artificial sun be created to provide us with energy? Let’s look forward to the day when we can finally solve energy-related issues.


Saugat  Bhattarai

Asmita Gaire

  • Asmita Gaire says :
    Greetings Eco Generation
    I hope you are doing well.
    Listening news and learning itself from Tunza, I find Korea to be far ahead in context of these technologies.
    Good to read this report.
    Thank you so much for this report.
    Green cheers
    Asmita Gaire
    Posted 08-05-2020 15:47

Bal krishna Pandey

  • Bal krishna Pandey says :
    thanks for this article. Enjoying with this full of knowledge during lock down.
    Posted 04-05-2020 21:18

Yushika Subedi

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Really interesting article on clean energy for future
    Posted 05-04-2020 12:37

Vazira Ikhtiyorova

Sonika Pariyar

  • Sonika Pariyar says :
    Greeting Tunza!!!

    Thanks for sharing this with us!!

    I enjoyed reading it.

    Posted 31-03-2020 17:23

Rachu Khanal

  • Rachu Khanal says :
    Thanks for this article.
    Enjoyed reading this
    Posted 31-03-2020 02:05

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