Nuclear fusion

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Nuclear fusion is a process in which small atomic nuclei fuse and release energy. In a hydrogen bomb, fusion of deuterium and tritium (two isotopes of hydrogen) releases four times as much energy as the same mass of uranium in a fission bomb.[1]

To derive useful power from nuclear fusion, the nuclei need to be confined at pressures and temperatures far higher than any material can withstand. There are two ways to do this - either with magnetic fields, which force the charged particles to circle around rather that escape, or with "inertial confinement" like in a bomb, but driven by lasers on a much smaller scale.[2]

Both fission and fusion produce small amounts of nuclear waste. The advantages of fusion are that it does not have the anti-nuclear stigma of fission, and the reactors will be so expensive as to not threaten an end to the fossil fuel industry.

  1. On a mass basis, the D-T fusion reaction releases over four times as much energy as uranium fission.Nuclear Fusion Power World Nuclear Association, 2022.
  2. Recently there has been some excitement about a hybrid technique, using inertia from massive pistons compressing a magnetic field, which keeps the hot plasma away from the reactor walls.Helion Energy