Making the heart of a star to power the world | FT Rethink

Nuclear fusion has enormous potential as an energy source. It doesn’t produce carbon and creates a lot less radioactive waste than current fission nuclear reactors. Until now, generating a nuclear fusion reaction efficiently has proved impossible, but as Anjana Ahuja explains, we’ve recently seen some impressive breakthroughs, and there’s also a lot more private money sloshing around.

So if you could sum up this topic with one snappy phrase what would it be making the heart of a star to power the world nuclear fusion is about fusing atoms to release huge amounts of energy we know it’s physically possible because it happens in the core of the sun we do already have nuclear reactors in and we have nuclear power stations but those are fission

Reactors and that’s when atoms are split to produce the energy in fusion reactors atoms are fused it takes an enormous amount of energy to bring atoms together to make them fuse and the problem is is that nobody has been able to get more energy out than they’ve put in but the ratio is moving the right way just to give you an idea of the potential for fusion energy a

Glass of water like this contains enough fuel for the fusion process to meet the energy needs of one person for the whole of their life people really want to crack fusion energy because it’s clean it doesn’t produce carbon and it produces a lot less radioactive waste than current fission nuclear reactors there’s been some great news recently a real breakthrough at

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The joint european taurus that’s the jet facility near oxford and it happened this february and they produced more energy than they’ve ever produced in a fusion experiment a total of 59 megajoules over the course of five seconds and that smashed its own world record that dated back to 1997. and the really nice news about that is that it shows the method works it’s

A proof of principle it follows hot on the heels of what’s happened in the u.s at the national ignition facility and it produced 1.3 megajoules compared to the 59 produced at jet china is also chasing fusion energy and recently managed to sustain a fusion reaction at 120 million degrees for 101 seconds so after a slow burn for decades fusion energy really seems to

Be going places and you can sense that from the amount of private money sloshing around according to the industry association private companies have raised more than two billion dollars of investment there’s been talk that we could have fusion energy by the 2030s but the standing joke really in the field is that fusion energy is always 20 30 perhaps 40 years away

I think the difference today is the amount of private enterprise both in terms of money and effort and we could see that change the game in the same way that commercial entrance changed the space industry if we could get fusion energy to work we still have the challenge of scaling it up and that is massive just to power the us grid for example it’s been estimated

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It would take 3000 reactors at a cost of 1 trillion so where do i think we’re going with nuclear fusion well i think globally the most important climate target for us right now is net zero whether that’s by 2050 2040 ideally even before and i think the key question for me about fusion is whether it can scale up quickly enough to be in the mix for our carbon-free

Future and that’s why i think this decade could make or break fusion energy

Transcribed from video
Making the heart of a star to power the world | FT Rethink By Financial Times

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