The Big Think

May 25, 2006


Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 2:24 pm

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) has received approval. This is great news for the future of energy. The ITER has the potential to completely replace modern nuclear fission reactors with far safer fusion technology. Fusion produces very, very little nuclear waste compared to fission (like, almost none- fusion does produce some radioactive waste, but it’s so miniscule compared to fission that it’s laughable).
Fusion technology could also provide a boost to space programs since one of the easiest sources of fusion fuel (helium three) is found on the surface of the moon.

With current technology it’s possible to produce H3 here on earth, but there is a LOT of it just sitting around on the lunar surface. When sunlight hits the lunar regolith, it reacts with the soil to create helium 3. You still have to mine the soil and heat it (with the by-products of this process being, helpfully, water and oxygen), but you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s estimated that a kilogram of helium three burned in a fusion reactor has as much energy as over 20 million gallons of fossil fuels.

The ITER will be the largest and most advanced fusion reactor testbed to date. Need more proof that it’s a good thing? International environmental organizations oppose it on the grounds that it’s “too far from reality”. geeze louise. I’m a huge environmental advocate (you don’t spend five summers as a wilderness guide and not come to care for the environment), but these folks don’t get it. Sure, fusion is future technology in its current state, but at some point, so was solar and wind. Heck, at some point even the concept of damming up a river to use hydro power was considered “too far from reality”. Good thing these people aren’t involved in actually, you know, getting things done.

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