Fusion Basics

What is fusion energy?


Fusion is a nuclear process that releases large amounts of energy by combining lighter atomic nuclei to form heavier nuclei. Unlike nuclear fission (used in today’s power plants), fusion reactions require extremely high temperatures. At these temperatures, the fuel atoms are so excited that they are in the plasma state.

Schematics of Deuterium-Tritium nuclear reaction
Schematic of Deuterium-Tritium Reaction

What is a plasma?


Plasma is the fourth state of matter, accompanying the more traditional solids, liquids, and gasses. Unlike neutral gasses, plasmas are comprised of free electrons and ions, giving them electric and magnetic properties. This allows plasmas to be manipulated via applied electric and magnetic fields. A tokamak is a donut-shaped machine that uses strong magnetic fields to confine the plasma into a small controllable region where fusion can occur.

Why pursue fusion energy?


Fusion energy has attractive advantages in comparison with today’s energy sources. In addition to being free of greenhouse gas emissions, it is inherently safe, reliable, and fuel efficient. Its fuel is naturally abundant, and it does not generate radioactive waste as a byproduct.