What is nuclear fusion? What is a fusion reaction?
Nuclear fusion, the same phenomenon that powers our sun through fusion reactions, has the power to free us from dependency on polluting and wasteful energy sources, fueling humanity’s exploits while protecting our planet’s environment. Today the nuclear industry is working harder than ever on fusion research to make clean fusion energy a reality.
Nuclear fusion occurs when two atoms, such as hydrogen and helium, collide at high speeds to become a single new atom. This process, called a fusion reaction, is one of the most important and fundamental processes in the universe. Every single naturally occurring element in the universe heavier than hydrogen exists now as a result, directly or indirectly, of the nuclear fusion reactions that began in the hearts of the first stars billions of years ago when the universe was young. Proposed and in-development fusion reactors use deuterium and tritium (two isotopes of hydrogen) or other light isotopes of elements such as helium, lithium, and boron to induce nuclear fusion.
Manmade nuclear fusion is an immensely challenging undertaking. Just as in our sun, nuclear fusion reactions can produce incredible amounts of energy. With a fusion power plant, that fusion reaction energy can be harnessed in fusion power plants to produce electricity without creating pollutants like greenhouse gases or high-level nuclear waste. Given the gravity of climate change and consequent disruption to our ecosystem, there has never been a greater need to unlock fusion as a sustainable, carbon-free energy source.