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Nuclear Future

By Kyan Wang Feb. 15, 2023

The power of the atom has been one of the most feared—and most incredible phenomena—known to man. Since the discovery of nuclear fission, a method to split a large atom that releases tremendous energy, the energy stored in an atom’s subatomic forces has been utilized for both weapons of destruction and life-giving electric power. Even more powerful than fission, which nuclear power plants use, is nuclear fusion. The process involves the fusion of small atoms into larger atoms, and releases more than double the energy of a comparable nuclear fission reaction. The U.S. Department of Energy states that nuclear fusion, the same process that powers the Sun, is a clean power generation process that could provide much of the future’s energy needs.

According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, on Dec. 5, 2022, researchers at its National Ignition Facility achieved a breakthrough by creating nuclear ignition for the first time in a laboratory setting.

The amount of energy used to initiate nuclear fusion was less than the total amount of energy created by the fusion, resulting in a positive energy output of 54%.

The researchers accomplished this by shining high-powered lasers into a pea-sized gold cylinder holding a frozen pellet of the hydrogen isotopes, causing them to fuse into helium atoms.

Nuclear fusion has been long sought after as the gold standard of power generation with its high potential for energy efficiency that only produces minute amounts of short-lasting radioactive waste. Although a long running joke among the nuclear fusion research community has been that controlled nuclear fusion will always be 30 years away from realization, this joke has become increasingly outdated as nuclear fusion development accelerates.

Fusion energy holds the potential to end non-renewable energy dependence, providing a virtually endless source of energy that does not contribute to climate change. Although nuclear power has long been plagued by many detractors, including those rightfully fearful of potential nuclear meltdowns as seen in past incidents such as Chernobyl, safe maintenance of nuclear plants lowers the risk of failures.

In fact, nonprofit organization Media Matters for America reports that the Environmental Protection Agency's limits on nuclear power plant radiation are so strict that average background radiation levels exceed them by several hundred times. Nuclear fusion energy will begin a new chapter in human progress, bringing an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity as unlimited energy production becomes the next breakthrough for humanity.


About the Contributor

Kyan Wang

staff writer

Kyan Wang is a sophomore at Leland High School and the Tech Columnist and staff writer for The Charger Account. In his free time, he enjoys wasting away on his computer and running.

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