Mankind’s search for a solution to its energy problems may be being solved as we know it. This could be coming about due to the pursuit of ‘nuclear fusion’ energy. While typical nuclear reactors split atoms to release energy, nuclear fusion involves merging atoms together. In effect, it replicates conditions similar to the sun leading to a never-ending source of clean energy that could be harnessed to power the world’s ever-growing needs.
A 35 country partnership called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor or ITER aims to develop this technology by 2025 and have electricity generated from it by 2040. The idea was born in 1986 with the first meeting of then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to develop fusion energy in the interests of humanity. Dr Mark Henderson, a scientist at ITER, said, “Here in the near future we will have a little Sun on Earth and it will be a 150 million degrees celsius so it will be the hottest place on Earth, ten times hotter than our Sun.” As per their calculations, ten such fusion reactors could power all the energy needs of Italy.
Of the countries involved, India is staking 17500 Crore Rupees for ten percent of the cost making it the most expensive science project in the world in addition to contributing a large refrigeration device to house the reactor. Other projects of similar design have so far given reason for optimism with China’s own artificial sun recorded as having reached 100 million degrees Celsius last year though only lasting for ten seconds. Furthermore, a private venture in the US has also created a tiny sun standing at 1/64th the size of the ITER project but is being seen as a gateway for commercial production.