ITER fusion power

NPR, this week, released a story about a project in Southern France that is attempting to create a working fusion reactor. The Project, ITER or International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is a joint project of EURATOM, Japan, China, India, Korea, Russia and the USA.

Fusion reactions have the potential to provide limitless, green power with almost no resources, by the “fusing” of atoms and the release of high-energy neutrons. Said NPR reporter David Kestenbaum,”

“Take the lithium from a laptop battery and a bathtub full of water, and you’ve potentially got enough fuel to cover your energy needs for life”

Proponents of the Fusion experiment have stated that the ITER is not dangerous, that a breach of the containment walls of the reactor would actually stop the entire process by cooling the plasma used to generate energy. Essentially, the runaway reactor theory associated with fission works in reverse; its actually very hard to get a fusion reaction going at all. Too, the amount of nuclear waste, if any, would be significantly less than with conventional nuclear reactors.

Objections to the ITER have been raised by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, which called the ITER a “dangerous toy“that will not affect energy production for decades, and that will only exacerbate the problems that already exist with nuclear fission. Critics charge that the 10 billion Euro price tag – roughly half of which is covered by the European Union – would be better allocated to create enormous offshore wind farms.

The Greens have a point. Current energy needs do need to be met by renewable energy as soon as possible, and misallocated tax revenue might certainly be used to pay a percentage of it. But it should not come at the expense of fusion research, which has the potential to not only provide for our energy needs, but also for out technological discretion in the future.

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