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Nuclear Fusion and the Future of Clean Energy

Relevance of Nuclear Fusion and the Future of Clean Energy for UPSC


Nuclear Fusion and the Future of Clean Energy: Climate change is the biggest problem of today’s world and every successful step towards Nuclear Fusion Energy has a great significance. So, the success of US Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California is a major milestone and an important progress that every UPSC aspirant need to be aware about it. The Title ”Nuclear Fusion and the Future of Clean Energy” covers GS 3: Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Climate Change, International Treaties & Agreements


Why ”Nuclear Fusion” is in the News?

  • A major breakthrough has been announced by US scientists in the race to recreate nuclear fusion.
  • The experiment took place at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California.
  • The amount of energy they’ve generated in this experiment is tiny – just enough to boil a few kettles. But what it represents is huge.
The interior of the target chamber at LLNL, where nuclear fusion takes place
The interior of the target chamber at LLNL, where nuclear fusion takes place

How does the experiment happen?

  • The scientists put a tiny amount of hydrogen into a capsule the size of a peppercorn.
  • Then a powerful 192-beam laser is used to heat and compress the hydrogen fuel.
  • The laser is so strong it can heat the capsule to 100 million degrees Celsius – hotter than the centre of the Sun, and compress it to more than 100 billion times that of Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Under these forces the capsule begins to implode on itself, forcing the hydrogen atoms to fuse and release energy.


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Analysis Of Down To Earth Magazine: Nuclear Fusion Energy Code


What is nuclear fusion?

Analysis Of Down To Earth Magazine: "Nuclear Fusion Energy Code"_70.1

  • Nuclear fusion is the process which gives the Sun its energy.
  • Scientists from more than 50 countries have been trying to recreate it on Earth since the 1960s.
  • They hope it could eventually provide huge quantities of clean energy for the world.
  • In nuclear fusion, pairs of tiny particles called atoms are heated and forced together to make one heavier one.
  • It is the opposite of nuclear fission, in which heavy atoms are split apart. Nuclear power stations currently use nuclear fission to generate electricity.


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Why is nuclear fusion is called “holy grail” of energy production ?


  • Nuclear fission produces a lot of radioactive waste, which can be dangerous and must be stored safely – potentially for hundreds of years.
  • The waste produced by nuclear fusion is less radioactive and decays much more quickly.
  • Nuclear fusion doesn’t need fossil fuels like oil or gas. It also doesn’t generate greenhouse gases, which trap the Sun’s heat and are responsible for climate change.
  • Most fusion experiments use hydrogen, which can be extracted cheaply from seawater and lithium, meaning fuel supplies could last for millions of years.
  • It has been described as the “holy grail” of energy production.


How does nuclear fusion works?


  • When two atoms of a light element such as hydrogen are heated and combine to form a single heavier element such as helium, the chemical reaction produces massive amounts of energy which can be captured.
  • But getting two identical elements to combine is actually very hard.
  • Because they have the same charge – like the positive ends of two batteries – they naturally repel each other.
  • A lot of energy is needed to overcome this resistance.

Schematic of nuclear fusion

  • In the Sun, this happen thanks to extremely high temperatures of around ten million degrees Celsius, and significant pressure – more than 100 billion times that of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • On Earth, scientists have used various different techniques to attempt to recreate these conditions.
  • But it has proved very difficult to maintain the high temperature and pressure needed for long enough.
  • The US’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) has announced it successfully used a 192-beam laser to turn a tiny amount of hydrogen into enough energy to power about 15 – 20 kettles.
  • This means that – for the first time – scientists were able to generate more power than the lasers put in to the experiment.

Nuclear Fusion and the Future of Clean Energy_6.1

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Should we consider nuclear fusion a lone weapon to fight Global Warming?


  • Nuclear fusion does not rely on fossil fuels like oil or gas, and produces none of the greenhouse gases which drive global warming.
  • Unlike solar or wind energy it is not dependent on beneficial weather conditions.
  • It uses two relatively abundant materials found on Earth: lithium and hydrogen.
  • Widescale use of nuclear fusion could help countries meet their targets to produce “net zero” emissions by 2050.
  • However, it will be many years before recent experimental successes can be meaningfully scaled up.


Environment and Ecology current affairs:

Leith’s Soft-shelled Turtle | India’s Proposal Adopted at Wildlife Summit in Panama Conversation on Wetland Conservation at COP14 | Ramsar COP COP27 to Create a Special Loss and Damage Fund | Today’s The Hindu Editorial Analysis for UPSC What is the Focus of COP 27?
Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) launched at UNFCCC COP 27 Sovereign Green Bonds Framework: Final Sovereign Green Bonds framework has been Approved Dynamic Ground Water Resource Assessment Report 2022: The Report Shows an increase in country’s groundwater recharge UNFCCC COP 27 Summit 2022- India’s Agenda at COP27
PRaGeD Mission: An Initiative by CDFD Desert National Park LiFE Movement Corals & Coral Reefs

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