Friday, October 28, 2011

Future Perfect : Fusion power as a safe alternative to fission power

Fusion power as a safe alternative to fission power
Fusion power as a safe alternative
With various countries undergoing liberalization for faster economic development, the energy needs of the world are growing at a very fast pace. The availability of fossil fuels is only for a limited time period and their effects are also very devastating for the global environment. As increased carbon levels in atmosphere have been found to damage economic systems throughout the world, the nuclear power is emerging as a more useful and easily explorable option for fulfilling the energy needs without causing any environmental damage.

The common man in general has not been able to trust nuclear power and the word 'nuclear' still instills fear in many people. There are various dangers which people associate with the world nuclear. These includes the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapon, the nuclear disasters of Russia and Japan and the likely occurrence of such events in the future which can have catastrophic effects for mankind etc. The fast depleting energy sources have led the scientists to explore the area of nuclear energy and power in a much deeper way and such measures are being devised so that the nuclear power generation can be done in such a way so that there is no risk involved. One answer to the complexities mentioned above is thorium. thorium is a silvery metal which is present in the earth's crust in abundance, is clean and is able to produce more energy when compared to uranium.
As of now many countries are taking part in the fusion research with the EU, USA, Russia and Japan lading the way. Other countries contributing to a certain extent are China, Canada, Brazil, and Korea. In earlier days, both USA and USSR linked the fusion technology to their atomic weapons development programs. The fusion technology was classified till the year 1958's Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva happened. Thereafter, a breakthrough at the Soviet Tokamak made the fusion research as the most sought after 'big science' in the 1970's. International cooperation for developing fusion energies ensures that cost and complexity of the devices which are involved in developing fusion energy no longer remain a setback and issue and the process is not hindered by economic shortfalls.
Evolving trends
In the last fifty areas, enormous progress has been made towards achieving scientific and technological progress in the field of fusion. The industrial scales containing fusion devices where plasma are manipulated at hundreds of millions of degrees are used by the scientists.
JET or the Joint European Taurus-the central research facility of the European fusion program is also called as the JET. it is located at Culham, Great Britain. It is the most eminent fusion facility in the world and is the focus of significant fusion research funding. The state-of-art facility has enabled Europe to make great strides in the area of fusion research. Around twenty individual EU member states run a number of specialized smaller devices. The operation of JET started in the year 1983 after the facility was approved in1974. It met all its operational goals in the year 1990. After it, new scientific program were started and JET now also serves as a research facility and hosts a great number of operational researches. JET has been able to produce significant fusion power in the deuterium and the tritium plasma with numbers going up-to 16 MW in the short pulses which are characteristic of the current and existing experimental devices. The 'beak even' condition where the output power of the fusion process equals the external power which is inputted has been successfully achieved by the JET. The jet has also demonstrated clearly that the fusion devices can be operated in a very safe manner by using the tritium fuel. By using the remote handling techniques the radioactive structures can be easily maintained and also modified in the JET.
The Eco Homes- the eco-homes use the cylindrical solar panels for generating more power. The eco house, which is 800 square foot in size uses the solyndra cylindrical photo-voltaic which by their unique shape capture more amount of sunlight when compared to traditional solar panels. The system is also termed as the green roof integrated photo-voltaic or the GRIP V. Here the green roof located beneath the panels help in creating greater efficiency for powering the solar house. The green roof underneath ensures that the reflectivity is minimized and the greenery regulates the temperature of the solar panels which are located above the house. The house is expected to produce zero emission. The house has been built using sustainable materials. The wood sided flooring is obtained form an old Pennsylvania barn and the house also has an indoor garden which contains herbs and other plants.
MIT's Alcator C Mod Reactor- MIT's Alcator C Mod Reactor is the tokamak type fusion reactor which is university based. The new process of fusion burn has been revealed after 30 years of experiments which have been done at this reactor. The basic operational problems of the fusion reactors can be solved by this reactor. As per MIT news,self heating sustains the power and fusion reactions in this reactor and no outside heat supply is needed.
The Concept- When the nuclear processes generate power the power is termed as nuclear power. A fusion reaction is said to occur when two light atomic nuclei bind or fuse together to form a more heavier nucleus. While binding, a large amount of energy is released which arises form the binding energy that occurs due to strong nuclear force that is manifested as an increase in the reactant's temperature. The fusion power forms the primary research area in plasma physics.
The Advantages- the reaction of the nuclei of tritium and deuterium produces fusion power. The availability of these hydrogen isotopes is in in-exhaustive proportions. The fusion reaction gives helium as its byproduct which is not harmful to the environment. Moreover the fusion reaction does not gives any harmful waste as is the case with fission reaction. Thus, the energy obtained from nuclear fusion reaction can be the answer to global warming, nuclear waste and the impending energy crisis.
The impact- the fusion power and energy can be seen as the future in-exhuastible source of energy for the whole world. Many researches are currently going on in the area as there are extreme scientific and engineering challenges in this fled of energy production. Different countries are contributing their scientific expertise and research acumen and working towards the attainment of fusion energy by their combined efforts. This is in sharp contrast to the initial days of exploration of fusion energy when countries like USA and USSR kept the fusion energy exploration processes secret.
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