|Introduction: Contextual introduction.|
Body: Explain some differences between fission and fusion energy. Also write some challenges in sourcing energy from fusion reactions.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.
Recently researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it, something called net energy gain.
Difference between fission and fusion energy:
- Fusion is where two light atomic nuclei combine and release energy, while fission is the process of splitting two heavy, unstable atomic nuclei into two lighter nuclei.
- Fusion releases several times the energy generated by fission, making it a far more powerful process.
- Nuclear fission is more dangerous than fusion as it produces harmful weapons-grade radioactive waste in the fuel rods that need to be stored safely away for thousands of years. Fusion does not create harmful radioactive by-products.
- Fission reactions do not occur in nature Fusion reactions occur in stars and the sun.
Challenges in sourcing energy from fusion reactions:
- Extreme Heat and Pressure: To make nuclear fusion work on Earth, we need temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius, intense pressure, and sufficient confinement to hold the plasma and maintain the fusion reaction long enough for a net power gain.
- Precision: The energy from the lasers must be applied precisely to counteract the outward force of the fusion fuel.
- Complexity: It’s harder to produce electricity in a power plant. For example, the lab’s lasers can only fire a few times a day. To produce energy, they would need to fire rapidly and capsules would need to be inserted multiple times a minute, or even faster.
- Efficiency: Another challenge is to increase efficiency. The lasers require a lot of electrical energy, and researchers need to figure out a way to reproduce their results in a much more cost-effective way.
The success of this research can be viewed as a significant step forward in the decades-long effort to master a technology that is regarded as the most reliable source of energy in the future.