Ch. 37, Inertial Fusion Energy Technology

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Nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and renewable energy (including biofuels) are the only energy sources capable of satisfying the Earth's need for power for the next century and beyond without the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels. Substantially increasing the use of nuclear fission and renewable energy now could help reduce dependency on fossil fuels, but nuclear fusion has the potential of becoming the ultimate base-load energy source. Fusion is an attractive fuel source because it is virtually inexhaustible, widely available, and lacks proliferation concerns. It also has a greatly reduced waste impact, and no danger of runaway reactions or meltdowns. ... continued below

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Moses, E. June 9, 2010.

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Nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and renewable energy (including biofuels) are the only energy sources capable of satisfying the Earth's need for power for the next century and beyond without the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels. Substantially increasing the use of nuclear fission and renewable energy now could help reduce dependency on fossil fuels, but nuclear fusion has the potential of becoming the ultimate base-load energy source. Fusion is an attractive fuel source because it is virtually inexhaustible, widely available, and lacks proliferation concerns. It also has a greatly reduced waste impact, and no danger of runaway reactions or meltdowns. The substantial environmental, commercial, and security benefits of fusion continue to motivate the research needed to make fusion power a reality. Replicating the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars to meet Earth's energy needs has been a long-sought scientific and engineering challenge. In fact, this technological challenge is arguably the most difficult ever undertaken. Even after roughly 60 years of worldwide research, much more remains to be learned. the magnitude of the task has caused some to declare that fusion is 20 years away, and always will be. This glib criticism ignores the enormous progress that has occurred during those decades, progress inboth scientific understanding and essential technologies that has enabled experiments producing significant amounts of fusion energy. For example, more than 15 megawatts of fusion power was produced in a pulse of about half a second. Practical fusion power plants will need to produce higher powers averaged over much longer periods of time. In addition, the most efficient experiments to date have required using about 50% more energy than the resulting fusion reaction generated. That is, there was no net energy gain, which is essential if fusion energy is to be a viable source of electricity. The simplest fusion fuels, the heavy isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium), are derived from water and the metal lithium, a relatively abundant resource. The fuels are virtually inexhaustible and they are available worldwide. Deuterium from one gallon of seawater would provide the equivalent energy of 300 gallons of gasoline, or over a half ton of coal. This energy is released when deuterium and tritium nuclei are fused together to form a helium nucleus and a neutron. The neutron is used to breed tritium from lithium. The energy released is carried by the helium nucleus (3.5 MeV) and the neutron (14 MeV). The energetic helium nucleus heats the fuel, helping to sustain the fusion reaction. Once the helium cools, it is collected and becomes a useful byproduct. A fusion power plant would produce no climate-changing gases.

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PDF-file: 23 pages; size: 6.5 Mbytes

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  • Report No.: LLNL-BOOK-435451
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1025593
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc830461

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • June 9, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Nov. 22, 2016, 10:07 p.m.

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Moses, E. Ch. 37, Inertial Fusion Energy Technology, book, June 9, 2010; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc830461/: accessed May 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.