Energy + Nuclear Power (Fission + Fusion)
Disclaimer: I'm a physics noob, and just curious, getting started and sharing my thoughts and readings here
Energy is one of the most important factors that drive human progress and flourishing! Especially extremely clean and cheap energy would really benefit humanity and help us against climate change.
One related problem is that science and energy has become increasingly politicized, being pro or against nuclear becomes a political statement, without most people properly understanding energy, as well as nuclear energy in particular. Lets get into the science.
Nuclear fusion occurs when two atoms join together to form one larger atom. This process releases a large amount of energy. The sun is powered by nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission occurs when one atom splits into smaller atoms. This process also releases a large amount of energy. Nuclear fission is used to power nuclear reactors. The future potential lies in fusion achieving net energy gain, meaning the amount of usable energy produced by the fusion reaction exceeds the amount of energy needed to initiate the reaction.
Ultimately energy is the fundamental factor driving human progress and will continue to do so into the future. Finding ways to increase the efficiency of energy usage and transition to cleaner and cheaper energy sources is critical for progress.
The key challenges to overcome regarding fusion and fission can be summarized as
- Finding a way to overcome the extremely high temperatures required for nuclear fusion to occur.
- Developing a better understanding of how to control nuclear fission reactions.
- Ensuring that nuclear fission reactions are safe and do not produce harmful radioactive waste.
- Reducing the cost of nuclear fusion and fission reactions.
Overcoming these challenges will require significant investment in research and development. However, the potential rewards are great. Nuclear fusion and fission could provide humanity with a clean and limitless source of energy.
Nuclear Power by Wikipedia
“Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions to produce electricity. Nuclear power can be obtained from nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion reactions. Presently, the vast majority of electricity from nuclear power is produced by nuclear fission of uranium and plutonium in nuclear power plants. Nuclear decay processes are used in niche applications such as radioisotope thermoelectric generators in some space probes such as Voyager 2. Generating electricity from fusion power remains the focus of international research.
Civilian nuclear power supplied (..) a tenth of the sum of all global electricity generation, and was the second-largest low-carbon power source after hydroelectricity, which supplied 28% of global power demands in 2019. (..).
Nuclear power is the safest energy source. Coal, petroleum, natural gas and hydroelectricity each have caused more fatalities per unit of energy due to air pollution and accidents. Accidents in nuclear power plants include the Chernobyl explosion in the Soviet Union in 1986, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, and the more contained Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.
There is a debate about nuclear power. Proponents, such as the World Nuclear Association and Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy, contend that nuclear power is a safe, sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions.”
Brief explainer: Nuclear Reactions, Radioactivity, Fission and Fusion
Former fusion scientist on why we won’t have fusion power by 2040
DeepMind: “Magnetic control of tokamak plasmas through deep reinforcement learning