How Nuclear Fusion Reactors Work

Applications of Fusion

­The main application for fusion is in making electricity. Nuclear fusion can pro­vide a safe, clean energy source for future generations with several advantages over current fission reactors:

  • Abundant fuel supply - Deuterium can be readily extracted from seawater, and excess tritium can be made in the fusion reactor itself from lithium, which is readily available in the Earth's crust. Uranium for fission is rare, and it must be mined and then enriched for use in reactors.
  • Safe - The amounts of fuel used for fusion are small compared to fission reactors. This is so that uncontrolled releases of energy do not occur. Most fusion reactors make less radiation than the natural background radiation we live with in our daily lives.
  • Clean - No combustion occurs in nuclear power (fission or fusion), so there is no air pollution.
  • Less nuclear waste - Fusion reactors will not produce high-level nuclear wastes like their fission counterparts, so disposal will be less of a problem. In addition, the wastes will not be of weapons-grade nuclear materials as is the case in fission reactors.

­NASA is currently looking into developing small-scale fusion reactors for powering­ deep-space rockets. Fusion propulsion would boast an unlimited fuel supply (hydrogen), would be more efficient and would ultimately lead to faster rockets.

For more information on nuclear fusion reactors and related topics, check out the links below.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • CPEP: Fusion - Physics of a Fundamental Energy Source.
  • Fusion Reactors
  • Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Science & Technology Review: The National Ignition Facility Comes to Life
  • Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Science & Technology Review: The NIF Target Chamber - Ready for the Challenge
  • Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Science & Technology Review: On Target Designing for Ignition
  • LLNL: Inertial Fusion Energy: Opportunity for Fusion Innovation
  • National Ignition Facility Project: How NIF Works
  • Peterson, Per F. "Inertial Fusion Energy: A Tutorial on the Technology and Economics."
  • Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
  • Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory: Operate Your Own Tokamak Reactor
  • Project ITER
  • Rostoker, N et. al., (1997) Colliding Beam Fusion Reactor, Science 278: 1419-1422
  • Science Museum (UK) Online: Fusion
  • University of California Irvine: Fusion Energy and Pulsed Power Research
  • US DOE Office of Science: Fusion Energy Sciences
  • US DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences
  • Virtual National Laboratory: Tutorial on Heavy-Ion Fusion Energy
  • World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Fusion Power

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