CCFE / JET
Despite recent reports, nuclear fusion-powered energy isn't mere years from solving our clean energy needs. But physicists are making encouraging strides nonetheless.
Inside a fusion reactor tokamak.
Nuclear fusion may power post-carbon societies – but it won't save us from climate change.
A nuclear reaction is under way inside the Sun.
Emily Nunell/The Conversation CC-NY-BD
It's true that here on Earth, if you want to burn something you need oxygen. But the Sun is different. It is not burning with the same kind of flame you would have on Earth if you burned a candle.
New heavy nuclei are constantly generated in stars and other astronomical bodies.
People long assumed all the elements we see now were created during the Big Bang. But on May 2, 1952, an astronomer reported spotting new elements coming from an old star and changed our origin story.
The coils winding facility building in France, where a global effort to build the ITER fusion energy reactor is underway.
As fusion becomes more technically viable, it's time to assess whether it's worth the money because breakthroughs in the lab don’t guarantee success in the marketplace.
Cleanup crew search for radioactive debris.
U.S. Air Force
In what came to be known as the Thule incident, an American bomber crashed in Greenland, spreading radioactive wreckage across 3 square miles of a frozen fjord. Denmark was not happy.
Nadezda Murmakova / shutterstock
Euratom is responsible for nuclear non-proliferation, safety, and research.
The superheated plasma inside the fusion reactor is twisted by magnetic fields.
IPP, Matthias Otte
Fusion power, if it works, offers vast amounts of clean energy and almost zero carbon emissions. A new experimental fusion reactor has come online, and it uses a curious twisted stellarator design.
The plasma inside a fusion reactor.
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Fusion development takes time. It cannot be developed in miniature and then be simply scaled up. But we must work now, to make it possible to meet humanity's need for abundant, clean energy.
‘A-Day’ marked the first of 23 atomic bomb explosions at Bikini.
Department of Energy
In the summer of 1946, the U.S. government detonated the first of many atomic bomb tests in the Marshall Islands. Seventy years of radiation exposure later, residents are still fighting for justice.
Hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees.
Fire has played a vital role in human history, and will continue to. Recent advances in fusion herald the freeing of fire from captivity back into its natural form.
Great Scott! We’re in the future.
Ricardo 清介 八木/Flickr
Hoverboards, self-fitting jackets, nuclear fusion generators.... Some of Back to the Future's wacky inventions are closer to reality than you might think.
Radioactively contaminated territory around the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia.
Nikulina/Slapovskaya/Heinrich Boell Foundation Moscow
The nuclear deal South Africa signed with Russia is set to be massively expensive and comes with a fair amount of risks.
Lasers, going where no one has gone before.
Ultra-high powered lasers are the best and even cheapest approach to uncovering the secrets of physics, but with uses closer to home too.
The Joint European Torus (seen here with a superimposed image of a plasma) is one of the machines helping to unlock fusion power.
Why don't we have nuclear fusion power yet? Because it involves taming plasmas at temperatures far hotter than the Sun's core. But the good news is that physicists are slowly but surely figuring out how.
Portable fusion by 2015? Still the stuff of science fiction, sadly.
Ed g2s/Wikimedia Commons
Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s announcement this week that it could make small-scale nuclear fusion power a reality in the next decade has understandably generated excitement in the media. Physicists…
Superheated plasma inside the tokamak reactor, a split second before a fusion reaction.
Scott Silburn/James Harrison/Alex Meakins
The latest results from the National Ignition Facility in the US represent the passing of a nuclear fusion power milestone and come after a year of significant progress at projects in France and the UK…
True fusion will be way more impressive than this.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Researchers in the US have overcome a key barrier to making nuclear fusion reactors a reality. In results published in Nature…
Nuclear power and nuclear weapons: what’s the difference?
It is the received wisdom that nuclear weapons and nuclear power are inseparable. Consequently, any country that builds a civilian nuclear power station is able to build an atomic bomb within a couple…