By Aarushi Dedhiya
History has been made: nuclear fusion may be the next source of power for our electricity and may save our planet from climate change.
When I was younger, I was always told that nuclear fusion cannot occur on Earth and that the only type of nuclear energy we could produce was nuclear fission. My teachers have always emphasized that fusion reactions only occur in the sun. Therefore, I figured that making a similar reaction to the sun would be impossible.
Nuclear fission is when an atom’s nucleus is split apart and releases a large amount of energy, which is the exact opposite of nuclear fusion. In the simplest terms, nuclear fusion is when two or more atoms are joined together and release an extensive amount of energy through heat, and basically, mass is turned into energy.
This December, a ground-breaking discovery was made that completely changed our perception of nuclear chemistry. Federal scientists and the head of the United States Department of Energy broadcast that they successfully ran a fusion reaction in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Specifically, they achieved net energy, so they were able to produce a greater amount of energy than what they put in at first.
Scientists all over the world have been trying for so long to create this fusion reaction. Without any significant progress, we all thought it would not ever be possible — until now.
Will nuclear energy be the solution to climate change and shape a new, cleaner future? By the time I get older, will we all be using nuclear fusion energy?
Questions fill me as I grasp the reality that nuclear fusion is possible on Earth.
The way we produce energy is directly correlated with climate change. Already, 20% of the United States’ energy is from nuclear fission energy, a clean energy producer, but an energy source using a limited resource: uranium.
The blatant fact is that renewable energy is expensive, and some people see that non-renewable resources are much more efficient and cost-effective. Already the type of energy power used has played a large role in climate change, 25% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the type of energy used.
With fewer people using renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions continue to remain stagnant at a high percentage. However, nuclear energy shares new possibilities for changes in our electric sector and future as a planet.
Additionally, nuclear fission has raised numerous concerns. Famous nuclear disasters, like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, have spread fear that similar disasters may occur.
The contrasting side, nuclear fusion, is far more efficient, a much cleaner option to use, and poses no threats. Best of all, it needs hydrogen atoms to work, which can be found all over the world.
With the immense amount of energy produced from nuclear fusion, other methods of electricity will stop being used. Compared to fission, fusion could generate four times more energy per kilogram of fuel. Plus, it generates four million times more energy than energy from oil or coal. Altogether, nuclear fusion can reverse climate change and become the major source of the world’s electrical power needs.
Teenagers have become more focused on mitigating climate change and its effects, and most importantly, caring for the planet. Nuclear fusion has not been a topic commonly discussed in regard to climate change mitigation techniques, but with this new discovery, all of our homes may run on energy from it.
Nuclear fusion may take some time to be used all over the country, but possibly our generation and future generations will be able to use it. Not only will greenhouse gas emissions be significantly reduced, but non-renewable resources will be preserved. The environment can be saved.
Aarushi Dedhiya is a former intern with PennLive and the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg and a student at Cumberland Valley High School.