Tuesday seven partners representing half the world's population agreed to build an experimental fusion reactor
in southern France that could revolutionize global energy use for future generations.
After years of international negotiations that ended in June, 2005, France beat Japan in its bid to host the 10 billion euro International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER
). Fusion power refers to power generated by nuclear fusion reactions. In this kind of reaction, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and release energy. All nuclear power plants currently use nuclear fission
where the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei to produce energy.
The natural product of the fusion reaction is a small amount of helium, which is completely harmless to life and does not contribute to global warming. Fusion is not a chain reaction and therefore cannot run out of hand
The half-life of the radioisotopes produced by fusion tend to be less than those from fission, so that the inventory of radioactive waste decreases more rapidly. Unlike fission reactors, whose waste remains dangerous for thousands of years, most of the radioactive material in a fusion reactor would be the reactor core itself, which would be dangerous for about 50 years, and low-level waste another 100. By 300 years the material would have the same radioactivity as coal ash.
This is all very exciting news if you plan to be alive in the year 2045
(the projected completion date). Not sure if you'll make it that long? Well there's hope for us too because it turns out that you can make your own fusion reactor! The Detroit Free Press reported only a few days ago
that 17 year old Thiago Olson became the 18th amateur in the world to create nuclear fusion.
In the basement of his parents' Oakland Township home, tucked away in an area most aren't privy to see, Thiago is exhausting his love of physics on a project that has taken him more than two years and 1,000 hours to research and build -- a large, intricate machine that , on a small scale, creates nuclear fusion.
So who wants to help me build one? I've got a ton of legos and I think I know a guy with some helium tanks...