Fusion: the eternal energy of the future?

After the recent announcements of advances in the field of fusion, there have been comments from engineers who explained that in their university days it was already said that fusion would be a commercial reality in 40 years and that today, after 25 or 50 years, there are still 40 more years to go. Is fusion the eternal energy of the future? The answer is complex, almost as complex as the difficulties involved in producing energy on Earth by replicating the Sun’s processes.

Nuclear fusion is a reaction that releases enormous amounts of energy. This is the same reaction that takes place in stars. Hence it is said that it replicates the processes of the Sun on Earth. If achieved, humanity would be able to produce large amounts of energy from abundant fuels, safely, and with virtually no waste or greenhouse gas emissions, unlike nuclear fission and fossil fuels. fossils.

Recently, an experiment carried out at the Joint European Torus (JET) reactor, located in Oxford (United Kingdom), has obtained a record for energy generated in what they claim is the clearest demonstration in 25 years of the potential of this energy . China, for its part, has managed to reach a temperature five times higher than that of the Sun for more than 17 minutes (1,056 seconds). And the United States has managed to make fusion generate more energy than is necessary to produce said process.

“These are victories for a goal that has been pursued for years,” says Jesús Izquierdo, associate chief engineer at Fusion For Energy (F4E). Alfredo de Blas, professor and researcher at the Department of Physics at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), agrees: “The progress achieved is within the expected steps for the merger to be viable from a commercial point of view, although it is true that there are still we are far”.

Catalonia plays an important role in this energy race, by hosting Barcelona the European office of the ITER project (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, according to its acronym in English). In addition, Izquierdo points out that there are several Catalan companies involved in the design and construction of components for this reactor.

Beyond the advances in these large international projects, for the F4E expert the best proof that fusion is an energy of the future is that “there are already companies that are investing in the construction of private fusion prototypes”. It is estimated that there are currently around twenty private reactor projects (a hundred public ones). De Blas has no doubt that he will end up succeeding, but he admits that “it will be necessary to see with what degree of competitiveness”.
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Respecto a cuándo llegará este futuro, el profesor de la UPC confiesa que “sí que parece que siempre falten 40 años…”, mientras que Izquierdo sitúa el momento entre la década de los años 50 y el año 2100. Ante tales perspectivas, no es de extrañar que De Blas bromee diciendo que “es posible que mientras tanto aparezca otra fuente energética alternativa”.