Fusion reactor operated by 2050?

Fusion Reactor

Fusion Reactor

Rising crude oil prices may bring a great blessing for the oil exporting countries like OPEC. But on the other hand, especially the advanced industrial countries, rising oil prices could bring economic disaster for them. Alternative fuel sources are reliable in addition to fossil fuels is indeed a dream for them.

Can not be denied that the fuel oil is the largest source of energy that humans utilized, especially for transportation problems. But can not be denied also that the fuel would soon run out if the pattern of increase in fuel consumption as it is today can not be changed. On the other hand, the human lifestyle now, the burning of fuel has increased levels of CO2 in the Earth’s surface that trigger the greenhouse effect of increasing temperature and tend to destabilize weather patterns. Coal energy sources is a mainstay of many countries (due to reserve rich enough) to have an environmental impact is much greater.

Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies that are environmentally friendly such as solar energy, water, wind, tidal, biomass, and geothermal is massively developed. But the weakness of this type is the energy efficiency issues as well as a backup source varied over the surface of the Earth. Some of them such as solar energy, water and wind, is strongly influenced by local weather patterns. With current technology, these energies can meet the needs of countries with scattered populations, but it is difficult to provide energy for the population is densely concentrated in energy demand per capita is quite high as in industrialized countries.

Nuclear fission (conventional nuclear existing) can be regarded as an intermediate solution as its fuel reserves are in abundance. However, the issue of radiation and nuclear waste to be very sensitive in the community (and often politicized) has significantly suppressed the development of this type of technology. Especially if it is associated with the issue of terrorism, the future seems difficult to predict the fission of nuclear energy to be good.

Fusion reactions

Fusion reaction is a reaction that makes the Sun and stars in the universe is luminous. Reactions of this type can only take place if the temperature, pressure, and extreme high density fuels. At the core of the Sun, for example, 15-20 million degrees Celsius temperature, the pressure of gravity around a quarter of a trillion atmospheres, as well as the density of up to eight times the density of gold, has been to ensure the ongoing fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium nuclei continuously for billions of years. Extremes of temperature and pressure are necessary in a fusion reaction to overcome the repulsive Coulomb force due to the proton charge to be unusually large for the range of nuclear reactions. The stars are bigger, temperature, pressure, and their density can be greater than the figures above.

Of course these conditions difficult to achieve in the top surface of the Earth so that other processes must be sought. Light nuclei with low binding energy tend to fuse into heavier nuclei due to higher energy strapped him. Illustrates the high stability of the nuclear binding energy. In contrast, for the same reason, heavy nuclei (eg 239 Pu) tend to fission (broken) into nuclei of lighter.

One of a fusion reaction that is currently seriously considered is the incorporation of deuterium nuclei (D) and tritium (T). DT reaction has a greater chance than the DD reaction or Da (a is the nucleus of helium). In addition, the fuel reserve (D and T) are very abundant. Deuterium can be extracted from water through electrolysis method. Every one cubic meter of water contains 30 grams of deuterium, so that if all the electricity in the face of this Earth is generated by a fusion reactor, the deuterium reserves will provide for more than a million years. Tritium is not available naturally, but must be produced (cultured) in a reactor with lithium. Lithium is the lightest metal that is quite commonly found on the skin of the Earth and in low concentrations in the ocean. Lithium reserves has been known to date to meet the need for more than 1,000 years.

Lithium will be made into blankets (blanket) reactor as shown in Fig. DT fusion reaction would produce a neutron and n. These neutrons will move out of the plasma (the atoms of helium and tritium that have lost electrons due to very high temperatures) and is absorbed by a lithium blanket which in turn generate T and a. The second type of reaction takes place alternately produce energy can be absorbed by the walls of the reactor.

D + T -> a + n + Energy

Li + n -> a + T + energy

Another advantage is the low fusion reactor nuclear waste problem. Of all the fusion fuel tritium is radioactive with only a half-life (half life) 12.5 years. Serious radioactive waste here just the reactor wall material that becomes radioactive as bombarded by a neutron particle. But the radioactivity generated will be “fast” in the worst case less than 100 years old. Comparing with conventional fission reactor waste that remains radioactive after millions of years. Thus, the majority of fusion waste can be buried not too deep and relatively quickly forgotten.

In addition, the fusion reaction is inherently safe. Failure in any form will quickly contaminate the plasma in the reactor resulting in extinction of the fusion reaction. There is no chain reaction here which can grow exponentially due to the failure of critical control points as in fission reactors.

From this explanation it appears that a fusion reactor power plant (electric or thermal) dream. There is no CO or CO2 emissions and environmental impact deep in the limit of tolerance. Yet there are still many problems to be solved before fusion reactors scientists can operate commercially.

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