Why Nuclear Fusion Will Save The World

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Each week on TestTubePlus, we pick one topic and cover it from multiple angles. This week's subject is alternative energy sources: why is it so important that we start using them? What are the best options on the table? Which countries are leading the way in research, development, and execution? To start things off, Trace explained the difference between renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, yesterday, he was joined by Julian Huguet to discuss the pros and cons of different types of renewable energy, including nuclear. Today, Trace and Julian talk about nuclear fusion, how it's different than nuclear fission and why it's the most promising form of renewable energy there is.

There are two main ways to create nuclear energy: fusion and fission. Both are reactions that release huge amounts of energy by tapping into the nucleus of the atom. In fission, an atom is split into smaller atoms. With fission, by contrast, two or more smaller atoms are fused together to create a larger and heavier new element. Fusion is what runs our Sun (and every other single star in the Universe). Currently, when people refer to "nuclear energy" they're talking about fusion. Fusion produces tremendous amounts of energy, but it also produces extremely harmful radioactive isotopes in the process.

Scientists have been able to fuse atoms together in labs, but currently it takes more energy than it creates. In theory, "cold fusion" could give off massive amounts of energy and none of the problematic radioactive waste products you get with fission. The only problem is, no one has figured out a way to do it. Trace and Julian explain what the hurdles are and how--if nuclear scientists figure out how to make it work--it could be a source of limitless, clean, renewable energy.

TestTube Plus is built for enthusiastic science fans seeking out comprehensive conversations on the geeky topics they love. Each week, host Trace Dominguez probes deep to unearth the details, latest developments, and opinions on big topics like stereotypes, fear, terrorism, alcohol, survival, black holes, dreams, space travel, and many more.

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The Radioactive Boy Scout (Harpers Magazine)
"The force hidden in the atom will be turned into light and heat and power for everyday uses. Chemists of the future, working with their brother-scientists, the physicists, will find new ways of harnessing and using the atoms of numerous elements-some of them unknown to the scientists of today."

How much of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are associated with electricity generation?(U.S. Energy Information Administration)
"Total U.S. energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by the electric power sector1 in 2014 were 2,043 million metric tons, or about 38% of the total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions of 5,404 million metric tons in 2014."

Fossil fuel (ScienceDaily)
"Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal, fuel oil or natural gas, formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. In common dialogue, the term fossil fuel also includes hydrocarbon-containing natural resources that are not derived from animal or plant sources. These are sometimes known instead as mineral fuels."

Nonrenewable and renewable energy sources (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
"Energy sources are classified as nonrenewable if they cannot be replenished in a short period of time. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can be replenished naturally in a short period of time."