The New Atomic Age: Nuclear Fusion And Beyond, by Gary Norman

Economical fusion power may be the energy of the future. From Gary Norman at

The energy market is undoubtedly in a state of flux. The current power play between the U.S., OPEC and Russia is symptomatic of the changing geopolitical and economic dynamics of the entire market, U.S. tight oil seems set to completely upset the apple cart, and rapid technological advances are putting hitherto unattainable reserves within our reach. These are just a few of the factors that are currently calling to question everything we know about the market, but perhaps the biggest paradigm shift is still on the horizon – the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy.

When we think of clean energy we usually discuss wind, solar, hydro and geothermal. Hydro and geothermal are extremely good sources of reliable energy, but they are of course location specific, meaning you either have access to it or you don’t. Another type of clean energy that has enormous potential is wave, or ocean energy. However, as of writing, this potential is yet to be cost effectively harnessed. Although we are making great strides in this field, we can hardly include it as an energy game changer until we see much more substantial progress.

That leaves us with solar and wind energy. Solar can be split into several types, most notably photovoltaic solar energy and solar hot water. Aside from issues with efficiency, wind and solar share a common problem – availability. We can only generate power when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, and that means that we cannot rely on them as a primary power source. Efficiency is constantly being improved in both areas, and breakthroughs in energy storage mean that both systems are on their way to usurping the dominance of fossil fuels. That day is still a long way off, so for now at least, it seems fossil fuels are in complete control. But what about atomic power? What happened to the promise of clean, inexpensive and abundant energy that so many households in the 50s were seduced by?

While some may argue that nuclear fission is vastly cleaner than the burning of fossil fuels, incidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima are still very fresh in our minds. Indeed it is Fukushima that led to a dramatic shift in German energy policy which has set them on a path to completely phase out its nuclear reactors by 2022. Germany is certainly not alone in this decision, and with phasing out being the rule rather than the exception, we appearto be at the end of the era of atomic power.

To continue reading: The New Atomic Age: Nuclear Fusion And Beyond


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