According to a report by Reuters, the United States is set to announce its strategy on nuclear fusion at the upcoming UN summit on climate change, COP28.
After decades of federal investment, the United States is looking to transform nuclear fusion from an experiment into a climate solution. By focusing on the development and innovation of supermagnets for producing magnetic fields capable of containing plasma, the United States aims to commercial fusion technology as quickly as possible. Creating fusion energy requires strong magnetic fields to confine and control the extremely hot hydrogen fuel, which can become a plasma several times hotter than the sun (around 5,500 degrees C). Therefore, the development of supermagnets capable of producing immense magnetic fields is necessary if commercialisation of nuclear fusion is going to be realised.
By targeting fast commercialisation of fusion technology, the United States aims to develop a framework for deploying fusion technology globally, if support from international partners can be secured. However, despite progress being made, significant R&D will still be required before fusion technology is rolled out. For instance, a recent experiment conducted at the US National Ignition Facility generated only 0.5% of the energy that was put into powering the lasers used in the fusion reactor. Furthermore, reactors have hitherto achieved fusion for only a few seconds, while it is necessary that the fusion process is maintained steadily for longer periods of time for commercial-scale power generation.
Nuclear fusion has long been looked to as a potential source of clean energy. A major environmental concern related to nuclear power is the creation of radioactive waste, which can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years. However, unlike nuclear fission (the splitting of large atoms, such as uranium, into smaller atoms), nuclear fusion (the fusing of hydrogen atoms to form helium atoms) does not create any long-lived radioactive nuclear waste. For this reason, and for its potential to produce vast amounts of energy, nuclear fusion has the potential to greatly help mankind tackle climate change.
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