Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or “fuse”, to form a single heavier nucleus. During this process, matter is not conserved because some of the mass of the fusing nuclei is converted to energy which is released. Fusion is the process that powers active stars.
For several decades now, the possibility of nuclear fusion – producing energy by joining atomic nuclei rather than splitting them – has held the promise of cheap and clean power for all, without the waste produced by existing fission technology.
But somehow fusion is rarely high on the agenda in debates about the future of energy. Arguably, recent technical innovations indicate a working fusion reactor is now a realisable project in the medium term. Several major projects – such as the European HiPER project – now exist with the goal of advancing this dream over the next ten years. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, the promise of cheap clean energy has not been universally welcomed.
Some argue we have been here before, and the technological promise will simply not pan out. Others that the dream of fusion is an unwelcome and unrealistic mirage that encourages us to ignore the problems of climate change.
How close is this technology, and what does the current climate of thinking on fusion research tell us about today’s attitudes to energy? What part, if any, could or should fusion play in the future development of our society. – Battle of Ideas
Nuclear Fusion and the Future of Energy
The Institute of Ideas at the Battle of Ideas in London, U.K. Event date: 11.02.08. Speakers: Bob Bingham, Robert Clowes, Joe Kaplinsky, Michael Massey and Alexandra Penn.
Clean Fusion Power This Decade
Long Now Foundation at Cowell Theatre, San Francisco, California. Event Date: 06.16.10. Speakers: Stewart Brand, Kirk Citron, Fabrice Florin and Ed Moses.
Energy: A new nuclear age?
The panel of speakers includes: journalist Paul Brown; physics professor Sandra Chapman; science author and researcher Joe Kaplinsky and life sciences research fellow Dr Alexandra Penn.