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Fusion Power: An alternative for clean energy.

“…the use of fusion energy is a "must" if we want to be serious about embarking on sustainable development for future generations.” Director-General Osamu Motojima, Opening address, Monaco International ITER Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED) 23 November 2010

1. Introduction: Atomic Fusion: Fusion of hydrogen isotopes to generate great amounts of energy in the form of alpha particles and high-energy neutrons. The same basic principle that powers our sun to generate clean energy. Brief History of Fusion research: First concepts and theories date back at 1920’s scientific discoveries about atoms and their properties. The earliest stages of research came with nuclear weapons development, specifically with Project Manhattan in 1942 and until the development of hydrogen bombs (fusion based) around year 1950. The first patent of a controlled fusion reactor came in 1946 and since then over 200 different research projects involving fusion technology, materials, weapons and energy generation have paved the way to the great joint projects that are today looking forward for a solution to clean and cheap energy for the future: Today’s leading forms of power generation: As of today the main forms of energy generation are the traditional methods, Coal, Oil, Gas, Hydroelectric power plants and Nuclear Fission Power plants, all whit known environmental problems and supply limits 2. Current Efforts: Project ITER: Already under construction, is the biggest joint effort to experiment on the subject of Fusion Power, related technologies and materials. The Test Reactor is estimated to be finished on 2027. JET: Join European Torus, currently the most advanced Tokamak reactor built, precursor to most of the current projects on fusion power. It holds the record for energy production with 16MW in less than a second.

MAST: A different approach to the plasma containment technology that could lead to smaller and more efficient reactor designs. NIFF: National Ignition Facility hold the biggest laser in the world, used for a different type of experimental fusion reactor, the inertial confinement reactor, based on the use of high energy lasers to heat and compress the fusion fuel to the point of atomic fusion, releasing many times the energy used to start the reaction. HiPER: also a joint effort of experimentation with the same goals of ITER but focused on research and development of Inertial Confinement Reactors. DEMO: The future of plasma reactors, this is the next step of research, a yet conceptual design for a full scale commercial fusion plant. This project is the main goal for several experiments including project ITER, JET, IFMIF (International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility) and some governments own experiments. 3. Status: Project ITER: Under Construction, estimates indicate the reactor will be complete on 2019 and producing the first plasmas on 2020. JET: As of the year 2011 is used to test ITER-like configurations and operating conditions. This will be of great on the reactor construction phase of project ITER. MAST: The last experimental Physics campaign finished on September 2013. Currently undergoing upgrades for the next campaing, dated for 2015. NIF: On September 2013 the project reached an energy milestone, achieving fusion gain (relation between energy input and output) of 0.0077. The goal now is to achieve a fusion gain greater than 1. HiPER: Currently under risk reduction studies, the project passed the preliminary stages of development and the estimates indicate a date of construction not after 2017.

4. Criticism and Response: The controversy: “Inherent Danger” of Nuclear Power Hundreds of anti nuclear proliferation groups and many important Scientist frown upon any large scale research involving nuclear fuels, mainly on the basis of the potential danger of the byproducts of the reactions and the use of technology that in their opinion “Is far from being fully understood”. Funding: Priorities Others argument that the very high amounts of money invested on this projects should have been invested on research for renewable sources of energy (solar, wind, etc) and that these long lived projects will not be helpful against climate change.