Fusion is a new source of clean, inexhaustible and safe energy. Still at the experimental stage since the 1940s, this technology represents a strategic asset for the economic and ecological future of our society, due to its very low CO2 emission rate, the tiny radioactive mass it generates in the long term or its total safety compared to traditional nuclear power.
It is inspired from the energy reactions observed on the sun and the stars, so that it can be artiﬁcially duplicated on Earth to obtain a new source of pure, unlimited and harmless energy.
Its operation consists in forcing the collision, at very high speed, of two atomic nuclei that repel each other (such as Deuterium and Tritium), until they merge and release a phenomenal amount of energy. To reach a sufﬁcient speed, these nuclei must be heated to a temperature of about 270.000.000.032 fahrenheit (10 times warmer than the sun’s core).
The ﬁrst research on nuclear fusion was initiated in the 1940s by governments and universities. The Joint European Torus built in 1984 in Oxfordshire set a record in 1997 by generating 16 megawatts of fusion energy, even though it required 24 megawatts to heat the plasma and even more electricity to contain it. It could be fully operational and marketable by 2030.
However, the ﬂagship and international fusion project is embodied by ITER, which is currently being assembled in France, and will be the last step before a potential massive industrialization of the ﬁrst inertial fusion power plants. This project, which brings together 35 countries and mobilizes 20 billion euros over 20 years, aims to prove the feasibility of a controlled merger. If the project is successful, ITER could restore nearly 10 times the initial power used to trigger a fusion reaction for several minutes.
The revolutionary aspect of nuclear fusion lies in the abundance and accessibility of the resources necessary for its functioning: Deuterium is found in unlimited quantities in the ocean, just like Tritium, which is a metal easily recoverable from the earth’s crust or seawater. Thus, by merging the Deuterium and Tritium atoms contained in 1 liter of sea water, 360 liters of gasoline would be obtained. This would provide fuel to the world for millions of years. Similarly, with Deuterium contained in a water bathtub and Lithium contained in a laptop battery, there would be enough energy to meet a person’s average energy needs for the equivalent period of 30 years.
Nuclear fusion has been in an experimental phase for nearly 80 years. However, one essential element is now strengthening the credibility and feasibility of this future-oriented technology: the arrival of new big private investors. Indeed, just like the space exploration race with Space X or Blue Origin — which have boosted public and private investment in this sector — private companies in the nuclear fusion sector are giving it a new impulse because the winner will have the world in its hands.