Date:1/29/99 Report Name: Fusion: Our Future's Energy?
Fusion energy seems to be the most promising energy source of the not-too-distant future. It is safe, it uses an energy supply that is so abundant that it will never run out, it gives off harmless waste, and it produces energy comparable to the Earth's sun! But are there any problems with this hopeful energy source? What is Nuclear Fusion?
To understand fusion, it is a good idea to know about fission. This is the splitting of the nuclei of atoms into two or more smaller nuclei by bombarding them with neutrons of low energy. It was discovered in the 1930's in an attempt to make transuranium elements (elements with atomic numbers greater than Uranium that do not exist in nature). They discovered that the nucleus of Uranium-235 breaks apart into two smaller nuclei after absorbing a neutron. This happens because the extra neutron made it unstable. This produces more neutrons that bombard more Uranium nuclei, causing a chain reaction that produces an enormous amount of energy.
The problem is the nuclear waste that is produces. It is very radioactive and will not become stable for a very long time. Such a harmful substance is a great health concern and needs to be disposed of. Another problem is the energy it needs. It uses an element that is hard to find and which will eventually run out. Also, the reaction cannot be easily stopped and if it can't be stopped, a nuclear meltdown can occur. This is a serious environmental concern.
Fusion is different. It is a process that combines two nuclei into one, releasing an amount of energy that is far greater than that of fission. In a common type of reaction, two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium fuse together, making helium and a neutron. A small amount of the mass produced is...