Our four-phase path to fusion energy

SHINE has developed an incremental, practical four-phase approach to achieving safe, clean, abundant fusion energy. Our four-phase plan relies on using nuclear fusion technology to explore applications in markets outside energy production, such as industrial manufacturing and medicine, in order to advance fusion technology and overcome the technological, infrastructural, and financial barriers to clean fusion energy. To realize nuclear fusion, the fusion industry requires further technological advancement, a growing labor pool of skilled engineers and technicians, and increased capital. SHINE’s four-phase vision relies on finding near-term commercial applications of fusion technology at its current level and using success with them to build on these three pillars.

What is nuclear fusion?

Nuclear fusion, the same phenomenon that powers our sun through fusion reactions, has the power to free us from dependency on polluting and wasteful energy sources, fueling humanity’s exploits while protecting our planet’s environment. Today the nuclear industry is working harder than ever on fusion research to make clean fusion energy a reality.

Nuclear fusion occurs when two atoms, such as hydrogen and helium, collide at high speeds to become a single new atom. This process, called a fusion reaction, is one of the most important and fundamental processes in the universe. Every single naturally occurring element in the universe heavier than hydrogen exists now as a result, directly or indirectly, of the nuclear fusion reactions that began in the hearts of the first stars billions of years ago when the universe was young. Proposed and in-development fusion reactors use deuterium and tritium (two isotopes of hydrogen) or other light isotopes of elements such as helium, lithium, and boron to induce nuclear fusion.

Manmade nuclear fusion is an immensely challenging undertaking. Just as in our sun, nuclear fusion can produce incredible amounts of energy. With a fusion power plant, that energy can be harnessed to produce electricity without creating pollutants like greenhouse gases or high-level nuclear waste. Given the gravity of climate change and consequent disruption to our ecosystem, there has never been a greater need to unlock fusion as a sustainable, carbon-free energy source.

Fusion as an energy source

The sun harnesses nuclear fusion to incredible effect, and ever since we first discovered its fuel source, we have wondered how to take advantage of it and replicate nuclear fusion on Earth in a fusion power plant. Compared to other sources of energy, nuclear fusion has many advantages that set it apart as the ultimate form of energy production that we know of. Nuclear fusion reactions produce three to four times the specific energy of nuclear fission and typically do so with no long-lived radioactive waste and a near-limitless input fusion fuel.

image-nine

Today, the fusion research landscape is rapidly changing. As climate change has become a growing problem, the nuclear industry has achieved new prominence with innovators bringing in new ideas to transform nuclear fission and fusion energy alike. Surges in public funding, international cooperation, and private-public partnerships in the nuclear industry highlight the importance and opportunity of fusion energy.