Public opinion says that fusion energy, which is considered the source of large, affordable, safe, and clean power, will always stay an old form of energy that companies are no longer using. However, privately funded fusion energy start-ups like Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE Technologies, and General Fusion are starting to build prototype demonstration plants.
Meanwhile, 35 governments worldwide are cooperating on ITER in Europe, a huge system designed to exhibit the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy. It is financed in good form to the tune of billions of dollars, but the issue is that faster-moving private companies won’t wait for the results of a slow and expensive government effort.
As such, fusion energy should not be mistaken with present-day nuclear power plants that use fission, a process in which a uranium isotope is split to create a chain reaction. When that fission procedure is initiated, it is considered very difficult to put an end to it, as the run-away accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl proved.
Regarding fusion energy and its safety, we can consider the energy safe. If the energy intake stream which is used to speed up and heat the deuterium and tritium is stopped, therefore the operation will also stop. This leads to run-away accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima that can be avoided. As such, fusion energy makes up a very small fraction of the waste nuclear fission produces, while those limited remnants have a half-life of a few hundred years, not tens of thousands of years, hence is more manageable than nuclear fission waste.
It takes approximately 55,000 barrels of oil to heat 10,000 homes for a year, however, using fusion energy, it would take around one liter of tritium and deuterium, removed from the water, to power those 10,000 homes. And whereas those 55,000 barrels of oil would discharge 23,500 tons of carbon dioxide, fusion delivers no emissions and will have a lifecycle carbon intensity lower than wind or solar.
Fusion is an existential danger to the current energy industry. In case fusion energy is functioning in a cost-effective way, it would accomplish or settle renewables and provide safe, abundant, affordable, and clean energy for everyone on the planet. Economics and international relations would be overturned in ways that are hard to predict. Fossil fuel companies would be rendered outdated. This could cause massive disturbances in the world stock markets.
For the previous technical challenges and reasons, fusion projects in the public and private sectors are controversial and have been underfunded. That might change if the energy innovators can prove their viability, depending mostly on capital.
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