The Race to Cleaner Energy

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Let There Be Light reveals the story of scientists from all around the world working in collaboration to design a machine called ITER. Conceivably, ITER will, one day, produce clean, cheap, and renewable energy. The idea to create ITER resulted from the stars and how the energy they are made of—through a reaction known as fusion—sustains them. However, while scientists are knowledgeable in creating fission, manmade fusion presents a challenge that has been in the works for years now.

As Micheal Laberg, the founder of General Fusion explains, fusion is the process of two light atoms (like hydrogen) being forced together by immense heat and pressure to form a heavier atom such a helium. Subsequently, heat and light are released. The atoms must overcome the electromagnetic repulsion of each other, which possess a complex task to recreate on Earth. The two factors necessary for fusion (intense heat and pressure) are only found at the core of stars as of now.

Currently, scientists have only uncovered the secret to making fission—the opposite of fusion— happen. Within fission, heavy and large elements that are radioactive must attain a balance between protons and neutrons to reach a stable level. To achieve this, one must bombard the element with a neutron causing the element to split. Ultimately, this releases tremendous amounts of energy from very little material. Presently, this is one of the processes being used in the United States of America and around the world to produce energy. However, fission poses many problems.

For example, a significant amount of radioactive waste comes from fission and there is no sustainable solution for discarding of it. Every bit of nuclear waste is in temporary storage until a lasting solution is made. Additionally, there is the threat of nuclear power plants leaking significant amounts of a radiation, which happened in previous years. Two of the most well known nuclear spills took place in Fukushima, Japan, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, making both locations uninhabitable. To add to the drawbacks, there simply isn’t a limitless supply of the materials necessary to use fission. It is only a short-term solution to reduce carbon emission.

With fusion, energy can be produced using one of the most abundant elements on earth, hydrogen. With this in mind, there would not be a shortage of it. Another benefit to implementing fusion is that long-lasting radioactive material isn’t produced from it. Moreover, fusion releases a more significant amount of energy than fission.

What I found surprising is that I had never heard of this project even though our taxes fund it. Even so, the project is underfunded, making it harder for the research to move onward and stay on schedule. This ultimately causes people, particularly those in Congress, to lose hope in the project. Furthermore, the longer we have to wait for the possibility of an alternative energy source, the more pollution is being put into the environment. ITER represents a race against time.


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The Race to Cleaner Energy. (2021, Jul 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-race-to-cleaner-energy/

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