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9th February 2015

Physics students from St Brendan’s set off to Oxfordshire recently to visit the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy to see the work being done by scientists in the field of Nuclear Fusion.

Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the Sun, can play a big part in our carbon-free energy future. Culham is one of the world's leading fusion research laboratories, conducting ground-breaking research into the potential for clean, cheap and renewable energy. Nuclear Fusion, unlike more conventional nuclear fission, is a process of super-heating hydrogen isotopes so that they smash together, forming helium and emitting high-energy photons which can be harness and turned into electricity. However, for this process to work, the fuel (two types of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium) must be heated to temperatures over 100 million degrees Celsius. As a result, the inside of a fusion reactor is hottest place in the known universe, requiring enormously strong magnetic field to prevent the reactor from disintegrating. Fusion offers an incredible opportunity for the world energy crisis. It is a process that is incredibly safe due to the fact that there is almost no nuclear waste unlike in fission reactors, and the small amount of waste that is produced has a very short half-life. Further, it produces no CO2 as a by-product, instead a tiny amount of helium which has no ramifications for the environment.

If you are interested in learning more about how Fusion might shape our future, start by taking Physics as an A-level, then visit the CCFE website!

By James Camm and Kate Taylor (3Y2 Physics students)