What country could be the first in the world to achieve fusion: top 5 in terms of development
Fusion has every chance of becoming the Holy Grail of clean energy. "Green" energy, no matter how much it is lobbied for, is absolutely incapable of meeting the energy needs of humanity and leading to the abandonment of fossil fuels. This is confirmed by the fact that the share of fossil fuels in the global energy balance decreased by only 0.1% from 2009 to 2019.
There is also nuclear power, which is much more energy-intensive than fossil fuels, but it has its own problems. According to Bloomberg, nuclear fission energy costs an average of $150 per megawatt-hour (MWh), while the same amount of energy from a gas-fired power plant would cost $81 and a coal-fired power plant would cost only $74.
In addition, nuclear fission has other problems: secondary emissions from uranium mining and enrichment, as well as the accumulation of radioactive waste, nuclear proliferation, or even possible nuclear accidents.
At the same time, fusion is much more competitive in terms of both cost and energy intensity. According to a study published in the Royal Society journal, the cost of inertial fusion can be as low as $25 per MWh.
As for the density of fusion energy, it is four times denser than nuclear fission and almost four million times denser than fossil fuels.
This energy is also more sustainable and cleaner (no carbon emissions and no toxic nuclear waste) than nuclear or fossil fuel energy. In addition, fusion can be called eternal energy, as there is no concept of resource depletion for this type of energy.
That is why, according to InsiderMonkey, investments in fusion energy have shown significant growth in recent years. And at the end of 2022, real progress was made in this area when US scientists managed to achieve a net positive energy gain in the fusion reaction for the first time in history.
Five most advanced countries in the field of fusion
Canada is one of the most advanced countries in the field of fusion. Two startups are currently operating in Canada: General Fusion and Fusion Energy Technologies.
General Fusion is developing a magnetised target fusion power plant based on the concept of spherical compression of a liquid metal piston. Among the company's largest investors is the Canadian Business Development Bank.
There are also five ongoing research projects at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
Germany has seven research projects in the field of fusion energy, five of which are being implemented at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics.
The country is home to the Marvel Fusion startup, which uses the laser inertial fusion approach.
China, which does not abandon the idea of global leadership, has quickly become one of the most advanced countries in the industry. The country is implementing 18 fusion projects.
There are no startups there, and ENN Energy is engaged in corporate fusion projects.
Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the field of fusion energy, both in terms of start-ups and government research projects. Two nuclear fusion startups operate here: EX-Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering.
Kyoto Fusioneering already has contracts to develop a prototype STEP fusion reactor to be built in the UK.
In addition, nine fusion research projects are underway at various institutes in Japan.
The United States is the most advanced country in fusion energy. It is home to 21 startups and 83 government-funded research projects.
The most famous of the startups are TAE Technologies and Helion Energy, which intends to demonstrate the production of clean electricity from fusion in 2024.
As mentioned above, it was in the United States in December 2023 that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, thanks to the National Ignition Facility, was able to demonstrate the proof of concept of the engineering viability of clean energy fusion.
What is fusion?
A fusion reaction requires plasma, a hot, charged gas with unique properties that distinguish it from solids, liquids or gases. It consists of positive ions and electrons in free motion.
If two light atomic nuclei merge in such a plasma, they combine into one heavier nucleus, releasing a huge amount of energy.
This is exactly what happens in our Sun and in other stars in the universe, providing almost endless releases of safe and clean energy.
However, the fusion of atoms requires quite challenging conditions, as the Sun's thermonuclear reaction is driven by temperatures of over 10 million degrees Celsius and powerful gravity. It is these conditions that force atoms to overcome mutual electrical repulsion and get close enough to each other for nuclear gravity to cause them to fuse into a heavier atom.
It is planned that the first generation of fusion reactors will use a mixture of heavy hydrogen isotopes - deuterium and tritium. According to theoretical calculations, only a few grams of these reagents will be able to produce one terajoule of energy. This will be enough for one person in a technologically advanced country to consume for 60 years.
Earlier, OBOZREVATEL reported that scientists have discovered an exoplanet that is likely to be undergoing fusion. They believe that this planet may be something on the borderline between a planet and a brown dwarf, a sub-stellar object with some of the properties of a star.