A top scientist explains the principles of nuclear fusion

Nuclear fusion: many have heard of it, but few have a precise understanding of how it works. Fewer still seem to know much about the fusion experiments that are currently being conducted and how close — or far — they are from making fusion a reality. With the elusive technology tantalizingly close to being realized, now is time for those outside the scientific community to not only learn more about fusion but to also start asking hard questions about its viability.

The idea for nuclear fusion power has existed since at least the 1930s. Since then, it has become something of a “holy grail” for scientists and engineers — a safe, potentially limitless source of energy that produces almost no pollution. The advantages of nuclear fusion over nuclear fission (the process behind our current nuclear technology) are many: the fuel is (potentially) more readily available and cleaner than uranium; fusion produces no long-lasting nuclear waste; and fusion is much safer than fission, which does not always have the best track record of safety.

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