Nuclear Fusion- Significance
What is Nuclear Fusion? What is its significance? Has there been any attempt to realize energy from Nuclear Fusion?
Introduction: (up to 30 words) Explain what Nuclear Fusion is in brief.
Body: (up to 100 words) Explain the significance of Nuclear Energy by pointing out to the advantages of Nuclear Fusion and how it could be an answer to the Worlds energy requirement. Write about the attempts to produce energy from Nuclear Fusion.
Conclusion: (up to 30 words) Conclude by indicating why/how India should take up research in Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Fusion Process
- It involves light elements, such as hydrogen, smashing together to form heavier elements, such as helium. For fusion to occur, hydrogen atoms are placed under high heat and pressure until they fuse together. When this happens, a tremendous amount of energy is released in the process.
- Reaction between two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium (D) and tritium (T) has been identified as the most efficient fusion reaction in the laboratory setting. The DT fusion reaction produces the highest energy gain at the "lowest" temperatures.
- At extreme temperatures, electrons are separated from nuclei and a gas becomes a plasma—an ionized state of matter similar to a gas.
- Composed of electrons and ions, plasmas are very tenuous environments, nearly one million times less dense than the air we breathe. Fusion plasmas provide the environment in which light elements can fuse and yield energy.
- The tokamak device uses magnetic fields to contain and control the hot plasma, to keep the plasma away from the reactor's walls, so that it doesn't cool down and lose its energy potential.
- Three conditions must be fulfilled to achieve fusion in a laboratory:
- Very high temperature (on the order of 15million Celsius);
- Sufficient plasma particle density (to increase the likelihood that collisions do occur);
- Sufficient confinement time for fusion to occur
Significance of Nuclear Fusion
- Large amount of energy- Fusing atoms together in a controlled way releases nearly four million times more energy than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas and four times as much as nuclear fission reactions.
- Sustainability- Fusion fuels are widely available and nearly inexhaustible. Deuterium can be distilled from all forms of water, while tritium will be produced during the fusion reaction as fusion neutrons interact with lithium.
- Environment friendly- Fusion doesn't emit harmful toxins like carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
- Limited risk of proliferation: Fusion doesn't employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium
- No risk of meltdown: A Fukushima-type nuclear accident is not possible in a tokamak fusion device. It is difficult enough to reach and maintain the precise conditions necessary for fusion—if any disturbance occurs, the plasma cools within seconds and the reaction stops.
Need for nuclear development in India
- Energy security: Nuclear security is an important component of achieving energy security. Nuclear energy has the potential to provide a large scale of electricity generation that itself would help lift the standard of living for millions of population.
- Less impact on climate: Nuclear reactors do not produce greenhouse gases like power plants using coal and, therefore, can increase electricity generation without contributing to climate change.
- Replacing conventional energy resources: Increased share of nuclear power in the Indian energy mix will help diminish the reliance on fossil fuels and it will replaced conventional coal based energy plants.
- Continuous supply of electricity: They can provide a steady supply of electricity because unlike solar and wind power sources, nuclear plants can operate when there is no sun or wind and are not affected by fluctuations in water availability like hydroelectric plants.
- Nuclear Energy and Foreign Policy Nexus: Nuclear energy plays a substantial role in the formation of bilateral relations among nations. For example, the 2008 Indo-US nuclear agreement did not just support India’s domestic power plants but strengthened Indo-US bilateral relations while giving India the recognition of being a responsible nuclear weapon state with strong non-proliferation credentials
- Uranium contamination of ground water due to Mining: Recently, a study has found uranium contamination in groundwater from aquifers in 16 Indian states. For example most of the wells tested in Rajasthan and Gujarat had more uranium than the WHO’s recommended limit of 30 μg/L.
- Purity of Uranium: In comparison to world occurrences, uranium deposits established in India are mostly of low-grade (less than 0.15per cent U).
- Shift towards Renewable energy: This has often been cited as a factor that calls for a shift away from nuclear fuel. The plants, with a shorter processing route, need to incorporate measures to maximize the re-use of water, high recovery of the product and minimum discharge of effluents.
- Anti-nuclear protests: Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, populations around proposed Indian Nuclear power plant sites have launched protests. E.g. Protests in Jaitapur protests and Mithi Virdi.
- Syncing with foreign players: India’s current manufacturing capability only covers the supply chain for 700 MW pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR) with foreign reactors inevitably requiring foreign supplier agreements. Engaging with foreign suppliers means dealing with problems of capacity, queued bookings and uncertainty
- Manpower needs: To scale up nuclear energy in India, human resource for nuclear engineering is paramount. India currently faces a shortfall in nuclear scientists and engineers.
- Other Issues: Factors such as problems on land acquisition, rehabilitation/resettlement of affected persons, reserve forest/tiger sanctuary locations, socio-political issues, public consensus, etc. also influence the decisions on mining and exploitation of established uranium and thorium resources in the country.
Attempts at Nuclear Fusion
Nuclear fusion has been the focus of the researchers as the solution for clean energy, which can replace the conventional sources of energy like coal, oil, gas etc.
- But the application and control of fusion process is not easy to harness. A very high pressure and temperature is required to initiate the fusion process. Even if those conditions are created, then the energy generated during the process is prone to bursts, which can be deadly.
- The scientists have been working on harnessing this process from a long time, the most prominent among them being the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France.
- China is working on an Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor — an "artificial sun" designed to mimic the nuclear fusion process the real Sun uses to generate energy. The machine, called HL-2M Tokamak, is being constructed at the Southwestern Institute of Physics in China.