Going Nuclear?

The Future of Renewable Energy

Brittany Cooper
Assistant Editor

JETThe future of the oil industry is looking bleak, and many fear the depletion of this vital resource. The US alone burns nearly 8 billion barrels of oil a year, as it is our primary source of energy. There have been a number of suggestions as to how we can reduce our dependency on foreign oil, which could save trillions of dollars and lessen our environmental impact. These range anywhere from developing alternate fuels from corn and coal, to powering everything electronically. The depleting oil reserves have led to a sharp incline in the price of gas, which has impacted travel throughout the country, as many elect to stay closer to home during vacations and holidays. Scientists are working hard to successfully establish an effective alternate energy source, where many have failed to do so.

One such scientist, is Dr. Steven Cowley, director of the Culham Center for Fusion Energy in England, where he and other researchers are developing techniques to convert energy from nuclear fusion, to viable power sources.  Cowley believes that this process is the perfect energy source, and will someday replace the need for oil. One successful experiment resulted in only a few seconds of nuclear fusion, but produced enough energy to power 8,000 homes! They are now working to extend this duration, and advance fusion technology to create a consumer product.

The process of creating fusion energy is not a simple task. It requires heating two hydrogen isotopes to a toasty 200-million degrees, a temperature ten times hotter than the sun. The device needed to perform this experiment is costly, and extremely difficult to construct. The only such device currently developed is the one in use by Cowley and his team. While it did manage to reach the necessary temperature, it failed to sustain longer than a few seconds, so scientists are now working to develop a new machine that will self-sustain the required and temps. They project that construction will be completed by 2020, with a fusion burn by 2030.

Even more impressive, is the price fusion burn is projected to cost. Dr. Crowley stated that the world spends an estimated $13 trillion per year on energy sources, and with the introduction of fusion technology, that number would be reduced by 95.5%. This technology has the potential to solve our oil crisis, and provide a sustainable energy source that has minimal environmental impact. Only time will tell how far this technology can go, and what benefits will come along with it.