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Ryker Chute Dr. Guenzel ENC 1102 April 18, 2014 Is Nuclear Fusion the Solution to the USs Energy Crisis? An Introduction An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary by Davis Guggenheim, which is about Al Gores attempt at educating the population about global warming (IMDb). This made climate change a major issue for Americans in 2006. Climate change is the drastic shift of the earths temperature, which, if large enough, can cause devastating damage to life throughout the planet. With the primary cause of climate change being the burning of fossil fuels, research and development has been invested in the search for an alternative energy. The purpose of this paper is to look at the viability of nuclear fusion as a source of energy to replace fossil fuels. The Problem The cause of climate change is the greenhouse effect, which is when released chemicals and water vapor enters our earths atmosphere, and decreases the amount of heat that is released into space. This increases the temperature of our atmosphere,

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which causes extreme weather, increase extinction rates, and the melting of the ice caps that will produce massive sea level rise. The main greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and many others. Carbon dioxide, the largest contributor of the greenhouse gasses, has doubled in our atmosphere over the past 100 years, leading to an increase of the average temperature by 6% in the past decade (Glikson). 95% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have come from the combustion of fossil fuels, with 40% of that being for electricity production (Epa). In 2013, close to 5.4 trillion tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere from electricity production (Antypas). Possible Solutions Research and development of alternative energies has drastically increased over the past decade in the hopes of combatting global climate change. Some of the more popular alternative energies include solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and nuclear fission; all of which are attempts at replacing the use of fossil fuels as our primary source of electricity. There are major problems for each of the alternative energies listed. Solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal all have geographical prerequisites, which makes it difficult to implement nationwide. Solar panels require constant, bright sunshine, and wind farms need consistent, strong winds to produce sufficient electricity. Hydroelectric and geothermal both require a certain geological situation to function, like a sour of water or a geothermal hotspots. Geothermal and hydroelectric have the potential to

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provide energy for large cities, like how Niagara Falls provides a quarter of all energy used in New York state and Ontario (Niagara Falls info). Solar and wind on the other hand are not as effective for large scale energy production. The Atla Wind Energy Center in California is the largest wind mill farm in America, which can produce about 1500 megawatt from 750 turbines spread across 50 square miles (1 megawatt powers about 750 homes.) (Shimkus, Feldman). With the average coal power plant producing 500 megawatts (Coal vs. Wind), the wind farm produces enough electricity to be viable, but requires a large amount of land for loud, ugly, windmills. Solar also faces similar problems, making solar and wind more viable for residential energy production, and not for nationwide demands. These limiting factors are some of the reasons why these power sources are not viable alternative energies that could replace fossil fuels. Nuclear fission is currently one of the only sources of energy that is a viable replacement for fossil fuels. Fission reactors can be built almost anywhere in the country, due to the fact fission does not use the earth to produce energy. Fission creates energy by breaking apart large atoms, in the process, producing massive amount of energy stored in nuclear bonds in the form of heat. With the average fission power plant producing 1000 megawatts (General U.S), it can produce more than enough energy for demands of big cities. Even though fission technology could replace fossil fuels in terms of energy production, there are some major problems stopping its wide spread implementation.

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A major problem with fission is the disposal of the highly radioactive fuel rods used for the reaction. Currently, the United States primary storage facility for radioactive waste is the Yucca Mountain Storage facility in Nevada. Located 1000 feet underground, this storage facility holds spent fuel rods, waiting for them to become inert, and no longer radioactive. With plutonium having a 24000 year half-life (the amount of time it takes for a substance to be half as radioactive.) (Backgrounder ), and the rate at which the US is using fuel rods, it has been predicted that Yucca mountain will be filled in 10 years. Another major issue for fission technology is the danger of a meltdown e.g. Chernobyl, Ukraine. In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant failed, causing an explosion of steam and fire which spread radioactive waste from the core over a 2700 square miles area. This resulted in many deaths, mostly from radiation poisoning, and rendering a 20 mile radius from the reactor uninhabitable for centuries (Chernobyl Accident). The Fukushima accident is another example of the risk when using fission reactors. On March 11, 2014 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the east coast of Japan, resulting in a tsunami which damaged four of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, which led to radioactive material being released into the air and ocean. Currently, the four leaking reactors are introducing a large amount of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, creating an ecological disaster bigger than the BP Gulf oil spill of 2010 (Fukushima Accident).

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Nuclear Fusion Nuclear fusion is a different kind of nuclear reaction, where fission splits larger atoms; nuclear fusion combines smaller atoms to make heavier elements, creating a large amount of energy in the process. The best examples of fusion are stars, which provide the heat and light needed for life. Stars are powered by fusion at their core, combining hydrogen atoms to make all the elements in the universe. The nuclear force that holds together protons and neutrons are so strong; it requires a large amount of heat and pressure to break these bonds. For our sun to perform efficient fusion, the core burns at 28.3 million F and is under 289 trillion atm (atmospheric) pressure (Glenn). Since the 1970s, we have been trying to recreate this reaction on earth, our closest attempt being the development of thermonuclear weapons. To create the heat and pressure necessary, we surround a large amount of fusion fuel with atomic bombs, which, when detonated, compresses and heats the fuel, resulting in the largest display of destructive power by man in history. The USSRs Tsar Bomba is the largest thermonuclear weapon ever, producing a 57 megaton explosion, which was 1400 times more powerful than the two bombs combined that where dropped on Japan to end World War II (Tarantola). Recently, the focus of research and development has been shifted towards using this technology as a way to produce energy. Fusion has the potential to be a perfect energy source. The reason that it has the potential to be the perfect energy source is that we have not been able to create a

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reaction that produces enough energy. The potential energy stored in the nucleus of all atoms is large enough to power the universe, but we have not been able to create a controlled reaction with enough heat and pressure to release all of that energy. The NIF (National Ignition Facility) in Livermore, California, is a $3.5 billion research facility that is focused on developing a fusion reactor to produce energy. The reactors uses driver lasers to create 192, 500 terawatt laser flashes that converge on a small spherical pellet, which contains a few milligrams of fusion fuel. The high energy laser pulses converge on the pellet which heats the surface and turns it into plasma. The heat then creates more pressure, collapsing the pellet smaller and smaller until ignition is achieved, creating a nuclear fusion reaction. In September of 2013, the NIF was able to achieve an efficient fusion reaction, the first reactor to reach this milestone. An efficient reaction defined as when the reaction creates the same amount of energy as was used to start it (Rincon). The reason that this is so important is that this proves that fusion is no longer a technology we are trying to create, but something we are now perfecting. In 1985, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, USA, and the European Union came together at the Geneva Superpower Summit to discuss the development of fusion energy for peaceful production. This resulted in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is an international joint research project whose goal is to use fusion power for large scale energy production. Currently in the process of being built in Cadarache, France, the ITER is the largest experimental tokomak reactor,

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which uses magnetic plasma confinement to heat and hold the fuel to achieve fusion. There are other reactors in the world that use similar technology, like the Korean KSTAR, or MITs Alcator C-Mod reactor, which use the tokomak design to achieve fusion. But these designs have not broken the energy threshold like the NIF. To be completed in 2017, the ITER is expected to be the most successful reactor built so far: with a 50 megawatt input, they expect a 500 megawatt return, ten times the energy that was put in. (ITER) The Answer The title of this paper asks if nuclear fusion is the answer to the USs energy crisis. By 2052, we will use up our oil reserves, by 2061 we will use our gas reserves, and by 2088, our coal reserves will be gone (Ecotricity), the need for an alternative energy is absolute. With the threat of global climate change constantly shaping and destroying the world, and our source of energy being depleted at an alarming rate, we need a source of energy that can supply a large amount of consistent, clean electricity while not contributing to the damage of our atmosphere. Alternative energies like solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and nuclear fissions are all good temporary solutions for providing energy for unique situations, but these technologies dont hold the potential to be permanent and universal solution. So is nuclear fusion this perfect solution? Well we know that fusion technology has the potential to make seemingly limitless energy, demonstrated by the sun, and the fuel is easily acquired and abundant due to the fact

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that it is made from water (Understanding Fusion). But the truth is that we have yet to develop the technology to harness the full potential of nuclear fusion. The NIF breakthrough is a major milestone in fusion, showing that it is possible to use this technology for energy production; and with the ITER nearing completion, there is a promising future for the development of fusion technology. I believe with more funding and research, fusion could be the answer to the energy crisis, not just for the U.S., but also the world.

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Works Cited An Inconvenient Truth. IMDb. Web. 28 Feb. 2014. Antypas, Yanna, Brown, Tyson. U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2013 expected to be 2% higher than in 2012. U.S. Energy Information Administration. 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 9 Apr. 2014 Backgrounder on Radioactive Waste. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Apr. 2007 Web. 9 Apr. 2014. Chernobyl Accident 1986. World Nuclear Association. Feb. 2014, Web. 28 Feb. 2014. Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/ Coal vs. Wind. Union of Concerned Scientists. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. Elert, Glenn. Pressure at the Center of the Sun. The Physics Factbook. Web. 23. Feb. 2014. Fact Sheets. Nuclear Energy Institute. Feb. 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. Feldman, Stacy. Alta Wind Farm, Americas Largest Wind Power Project, Blows Closer.

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Inside Climate News. 27 Jul. 2009. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. Fukushima Accident World Nuclear Association. Apr. 2014, Web. 18 Apr. 2014. General U.S. Nuclear Info. Nuclear Energy Institute. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. US-Nuclear-Power-Plants Glikson, Andrew. As emissions rise, we may be heading for an ice-free planet. The Conversation. 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. ITER ITER Organization. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. NIAGARA POWER GENERATING QUICK FACTS. Niagara Falls Info. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. Overview of Greenhouse Gases. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. Shimkus, John. The Top Ten Largest Wind Farms in the World. EnergyDigital. 10 Mar. 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.

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business/the-top-ten-largest-wind-farms-in-the-world Tarantola, Andrew. The Biggest Bomb In the History of the World Gizmodo. 23 Jan. 2013 Web. 9 Apr. 2014. The End of Fossil Fuels. Ecotricity. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. The Merits of Fusion Understanding Fusion. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.