What is fusion energy?


A very promising technology but still far from industrial applications.


The technologies of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion are very different.  Fission splits heavy nuclei (essentially fissile isotopes such as Uranium U-235 or Plutonium Pu -239 into lighter elements (called fission products). Fusion combines light nuclei such as H-2 or H-3 into heavier nuclei. Whereas nuclear fission is a proven technology with the equivalent of thousands of years of reactor operating experience, commercial fusion technology is still a challenge and has yet to be mastered. Until now, researchers have only been able to demonstrate the process fleetingly in test facilities. A new more powerful test facility International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER) is under construction on the Cadarache site in South of France. It should be operational in 2016 and operate for at least 16 years. The objective is to demonstrate the technological and scientific feasibility of a full scale fusion power reactor. However, the potential of fusion power is enormous, promising essentially limitless energy and producing much less radioactive waste than fission technologies. It is still a long time before an industrial development is ready.