The Viability of Fission and Fusion For our planet As the global population increases exponentially, having passed six billion in 1999, the world population is expected to be 8. 9 billion by the year 2050. The worlds energy consumption will increase by an estimated 54 percent by 2025. Energy demand in the industrialized world is projected to grow 1. 2 percent per year. Energy is a critical component of sustained economic growth and improved standards of living.
One of the major requirements for sustaining human progress is an adequate source of energy. As the world's technological enhancements and standards of living improve, so too does their appetite for electricity. The largest sources of energy at the moment are the combustion of fossil fuels; coal, oil and natural gas. Fossils fuels account for nearly 88 % of the world's energy needs, with Oil at 41 percent, Coal providing 24 percent, and natural gas, the remaining 22 percent.
In the next five-hundred years, the globe will need a considerable increase of energy. Nuclear Fission Fission is a nuclear process that takes place in the nucleus of an atom. It is a process whereby a nucleus of a heavy, neutron enriched atom, usually Uranium-235 (U-235), splits into two or more smaller nuclei. This process releases substantial amounts of energy as a by-product. In a common reaction in a nuclear reactor a nucleus of U-235 captures a neutron and then undergoes a fission event releasing two or three neutrons of about 14 MeV (Mega electron Volts) energy. A pair of fission products is formed which is accompanied by the release of huge amounts of energy (100 million to several hundred million electron volts of energy).
Nuclear Fusion Nuclear Fusion is the energy-producing process which takes place continuously in the sun and stars. In the core of the sun at temperatures of 10-15 million degrees Celsius, Hydrogen is converted to Helium providing enough energy to sustain life on earth. On earth, the most suitable use of fusion occurs when the nuclei of heavy isotopes of hydrogen - Deuterium (D) and Tritium (T) join and form a larger nucleus. At the temperatures required for the Deuterium-Tritium fusion reaction, the fuel has changed its state from gas to Plasma. Scientific advancements on how fusion reactions can be contained need to be made before we can use fusion as a practical source of energy.
The basic principle in creating electricity from nuclear energy is whereby energy is created to heat water to steam, and in turn, channel led to turn a turbine. A diagram of a basic nuclear power plant is shown. Power Source Advantages Disadvantages Sustainability Nuclear Fission o Relatively cheap to produce o Does not produce greenhouse gases o Can produce large amounts of electricity Is reliable. o Nuclear accidents are among the worst type of man-made disasters possible.
o Waste from nuclear energy stays radioactive for thousands of years. Great care has to be taken in storing this waste safely. o Uranium is not renewable. o Uranium is expected to not run out for several hundred years. Nuclear Fusion o Abundant, inexhaustible fuel supply Nuclear fusion, unlike the existing nuclear fission plants, would produce no radioactive fuel waste o No greenhouse gasses o No generations of weapons material o Is not possible at current.
o Deuterium and Tritium, the two fuels required for Nuclear Fusion, are isotopes of hydrogen, which is the most plentiful element on earth. Coal o Very large quantities of electricity can be produced in one spot. o Coal is cheap and plentiful, especially in Australia. o Is reliable. o Coal is not renewable. o Burning coal produces CO 2 - a greenhouse gas, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which can produce acid rain.
o Mining coal takes up large areas of land. And has a detrimental effect on the landscape o Coal is the most widely used fossil fuel, which will eventually run out. Hydro-electric o Does not produce gas emissions or waste. o Is renewable o Is relatively reliable o Is the cheapest alternative electricity plant to run. o Large scale dams can be damaging to the environment, displacing the natural flow of rivers and therefore affecting wildlife o Hydro dams are quite expensive to build, and can only be set up where there is a large amount of flowing water o As long as there is flowing water, electricity can be produced.
Solar o Solar energy is free. o Is Renewableo No greenhouse gases produced o Not reliable as it can not produce power during the night or very cloudy days. o Very expensive Electricity generated must be either stored in batteries or used immediately o Solar power will not run out, as long as life exists on earth, as it is generated from sunlight. Wind o Wind is free Renewableo No greenhouse gases produced. o Not reliable if placed in an incorrect position Can be detrimental to landscape and be very noisy to run. o Can be harmful to animals (eg.
birds) o Power produced fluctuates with the changing speed of the wind. o Can only be built in a select few areas where there is a reliable source of win do Wind Farms are very expensive o There will always be wind on earth. What does the Future Hold? In the course of the next half-century the world is going to need a lot more energy at economically and environmentally acceptable cost, if population expansion continues - which it most definitely will. Although energy efficiency improvements will occur, substantial overall growth in demand is unavoidable.
The supply options comprise fossil fuels, fission, fusion, renewable's. Newly recognised environmental imperatives including the control of the greenhouse effect mean that reliance on fossil fuels will have to be severely constrained. Nuclear fission has the ability to make a long-lasting major contribution but suffers from problems of public and political acceptability. Fusion offers an additional, secure, virtually resource-unlimited, source of supply, with important environmental advantages. Because of the environmental advantages summarise d above, there should be no constraints on grounds of public acceptance to the widespread, intensive and indefinite deployment of fusion power. Considering the fact that fusion possesses environmental and safety advantages over all current alternatives for electricity sources, its development is a very important component in any strategy designed to allow economic growth to continue world-wide in the longer term, without generating major global environmental deterioration.
Thus the case for investing a small part of our current output in the development of fusion is an aspect of the more general case for sustainable development. Involvement in the world-wide programme to bring fusion technology to a commercially usable state is a wise contribution to sustainable development. Fusion technology brought to completion would be an asset of the utmost value to give to our descendants.