Fusion Power Explained – Future or Failure


The fundamental currency of our universe is energy. It lights our homes, grows our food,
powers our computers. We can get it lots of ways: Burning fossil fuels, splitting atoms, or sunlight striking photovoltaics. But there’s a downside to everything Fossil fuels are extremely toxic, Nuclear waste is… well, nuclear waste, And, there are not enough batteries to store sunlight for cloudy days yet. And yet the sun seems to have virtually limitless free energy. Is there a way we could build a sun on Earth? Can we bottle a star? [Intro Jingle] The sun shines because of nuclear fusion. In a nutshell, fusion is a thermonuclear process. Meaning that the ingredients have to be incredibly hot. So hot, that the atoms are stripped of their electrons Making a plasma where nuclei and electrons bounce around freely. Since nuclei are all positively charged, They repel each other. In order to overcome this repulsion, The particles have to be going very, very fast In this context, very fast means “very hot” Millions of degrees Stars cheat to reach these temperatures. They are so massive, that the pressure in their cores Generates the heat to squeeze the nuclei together Until they merge and fuse Creating heavier nuclei and releasing energy in the process. It is this energy release that scientists hope to harness In a new generation of power plant, The fusion reactor. On earth it’s not feasible to use this brute force method to create fusion. So if we wanted to build a reactor that generates energy from fusion, We have to get clever. To date, scientists have invented two ways of making plasmas hot enough to fuse: The first type of reactor uses a magnetic field to Squeeze a plasma in a doughnut shaped chamber Where the reactions take place. These magnetic confinement reactors Such as the I.T.E.R. reactor in France, Use superconducting electromagnets cooled with liquid helium To within a few degrees of absolute zero. Meaning that they host some of the biggest temperature gradients in the known universe. The second type called “Inertial confinement” Uses pulses from super-powered lasers To heat the surface of a pellet of fuel Imploding it, briefly making the fuel hot and dense enough to fuse. In fact, one of the of the most powerful lasers in the world Is used for fusion experiments At the National Ignition Facility in the U.S. These experiments and others like them around the world are today, just experiments. Scientists are still developing the technology, And although they can achieve fusion, Right now, it costs more energy to do the experiment Then they produce in fusion. The technology has a long way to go before it’s commercially viable, and maybe it never will be. It might just be impossible to make a viable fusion reactor on earth, But if it gets there, it will be so efficient That a single glass of sea water, could be used to produce as much energy as burning a barrel of oil, with no waste to speak of. This is because fusion reactors
would use hydrogen or helium as fuel And sea water is loaded with hydrogen But not just any hydrogen will do. Specific isotopes with extra neutrons called Deuterium and Tritium Are needed to make the right reactions. Deuterium is stable and can be found in abundance in sea water, Though Tritium is a bit trickier. It’s radioactive And there may only be 20 kilograms of it in the world Mostly in nuclear warheads Which makes it incredibly expensive. So we made need another fusion buddy for Deuterium instead of Tritium. Helium-3, an isotope of Helium,
might be a great substitute. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly rare on earth. But here, the moon might have the answer. Over billions of years, the solar wind may have built up huge deposits Of Helium-3 on the moon. Instead of making Helium-3, we can mine it. If we could sift the lunar dust for helium, We’d have enough fuel to power the entire world for thousands of years. One more argument for establishing a moon base, if you weren’t convinced already. Ok, maybe you think building a mini sun Still sound kind of dangerous But they’d actually be much safer
than most other types of powerplants A fusion reactor is not like a nuclear plant, Which can melt down catastrophically. If the confinement failed, then the plasma would expand and cool, And the reaction would stop. Put simply, it’s not a bomb. The release of radioactive fuel, like Tritium, Could pose a threat to the environment. Tritium could bond with oxygen making radioactive water, Which could be dangerous as it seeps into the environment. Fortunately, there’s no more than a few grams in use at a given time, So a leak would be quickly diluted. So we’ve just told you that theres nearly unlimited energy to be had At no expense to the environment In something as simple as water. So, whats the catch? Cost. We simply don’t know if fusion power will ever be commercially viable. Even if they work, they might be too expensive to ever build. The main drawback, is that it’s unproven technology Its a 10 billion dollar gamble And that money might be better
spent on other clean energy That’s already proven itself. Maybe we should cut out losses Or maybe, when the payoff is unlimited
clean energy for everyone, It might be worth the risk. Videos like this one take hundreds of hours to make and are made possible by your contributions on patreon.com If you want to learn more about global energy, Here’s a playlist about nuclear energy, fracking and solar power. Let us know in the comments if there are other technologies you want us to explain.

100 thoughts on “Fusion Power Explained – Future or Failure

  1. Material undergoing fusion is basically a universal solvent. There is no known substance that it can't or won't dissolve. Hence magnetic containment or pulsing the fusion. If fusion is ever solved then yay! But that should not stop us from building out renewables now. Wind, solar and hydro have already been proven to be all that is necessary to power a carbon free grid. Storage just makes it easier.

  2. I can think of kurzgesagt and trump fighting over what we need more

    Trump “WE NEED A WALL”

    Kurzgesagt “WE NEED A MOON BASE”

  3. "If we can somehow make a star on earth"
    That is what Dr.Octopus attempted to do in Spiderman 2.
    Dude almost destroyed half of the East coast with a man made sun in his lab

  4. So if the fusion reaction uses Deuterium and Helium -3, and one of the waste produced is Tritium. The one wanted at the first place for the reaction?

  5. "$10 billion gamble"

    … so, literally .25% of the US tax budget. A quarter of a penny per dollar of all taxes collected every year. What a gamble!

  6. We don't spend enough of nuclear fusion power research and development. We also don't spend enough on nuclear fission power research and development.

  7. Well I guess if something goes wrong with this reactor It shouldn't release nuclear material in the air since the reaction will dissipate instantaneously. Making this reactor way more Safe than fission reactors.

  8. Who is watching this when fusion energy has been made viable?

    If possible, tell the brilliant scientists who did that to invent a time machine (probably and preferably by space time warping and massive einsteinian distortion of the high gravity regions near stars or pulsars) and come back to this year and tell the world the secret of fusion. If it does not cause time paradoxes, well and good. If it does, well kurzgesagt has an existential crisis playlist. You have been warned.

  9. What about when you over eat at the party, you forgot the reaction in our tummy,

    Effects of Tsar bomb=reaction on our tummy

    💨 BOOM 💥

  10. So we can spent 1.5 Trillion on a polluting Jet Fighter that's heavy, slow with lesser range than previous generation models, but we can't spent lesser than 1/10th of that to develop clean sustainable energy? When I was a kid, i had already hoped to see Thorium reactors in 2020 and Fusion Reactors in 2035.

    Old people kill dreams.

  11. The dragon-ball fusion snap is killing! 😀 That was the point when I fully understood that this series is made for our generation for sure! Thanks! Totally appreciate it!

  12. I'd like to see where those Deaths per 1000kWh statistics come from. They seem right comparatively, but I hope one skull doesn't mean one actual death in each case!

  13. Just tell your government or terrorists that you're building a bomb and you'll get all the funding you'll ever need. Worked for Dr. Emmett Brown when he built the DeLorean didn't it??

  14. Elon musk wants to know your location

    Even though that was a joke I wish that becomes true and the saviour shows some interest in fussion energy

  15. It won't work due to the fact the sun uses gravity to make these reactions possible. Gravity is literally for free. That means no input = no energy waste.

  16. i'm pretty sure that the moment we are close to get it, lots of people will fight against it because they don't understand the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
    Sad part is that politicians will surely enable them to get votes.

  17. There’s also the fact that fusion of deuterium and tritium has already been done in hydrogen bombs, and thet definitley release more energy than they require. In that case though it requires a fission explosion to trigger the reaction

  18. There’s a renewable energy source that is has the power of 700 nuclear bombs and Devastates Florida every year. Yep you guessed it
    It is a hurricane. I have an idea to capture this energy by building massive mobile wind turbines, each 40% larger than the NASA crawler
    Transporters to capture the massive wind energy, then a special wireless transmission system would transfer the energy with no loss
    To another equally large machine that acts as a electric transformer and would help boost the wireless farther. Then all the wireless power
    Would end up at at another 60% larger machine that stores the energy using ammonia made from the hydrogen from the surrounding
    Humidity and nitrogen from the atmosphere. This type of energy would supply roughly the same energy as fusion but with a 100%
    Renewable resource.

  19. And a second even bigger problem is money. Oil companies, alternative energy developers and manufacturers, mining operations, …. The point is there are so many lobby groups and investors whose lives and livelihood depend on 'dirty' energy. Probably along similar lines to the quashing of electric cars back in the 90's.

  20. USA Military burned down almost 7 trillion us dollars since 9/11 in the name of peace in the middle East.
    Imagine what can we achieve with that amount ??
    Stupidity at its peak.

  21. Let the ship out of the bottle. Opposites attract. Use piston pressure to fuse helium ions with super magnets that are positioned far enough away as to not interfere with the charge of the ions.

  22. Great. So we’re just going to be set in our ways until we start dying from lack of oxygen. Way to go humanity 🙃

  23. You can't turn it into a bomb. And that's exactly why nobody is interested in it. If you could, world leading powers would be on it like flies on hot manure !

  24. We may not be able to achieve such power but it is soooooo efficient, what!? How come it so efficient but may not be able to produce? Oh wait it is money getting in the way of productivety again and again 😡👎😠

  25. we need thermonuclear energy because sometimes we need to get a lot of energy in a very small place.
    A thermo-nuclear reactor can be very small in size if you try to make it so as to make for example lasersaber

  26. I don't like that you hold current nuclear power in such low regard. It is the answer for now. Wind power is all around horrible and hydroelectric should be used where feasible. Solar is the answer but, we're years away and, some major technological advances from making it happen. Current nuclear power is the answer to cheap, safe, and clean energy. This video was good and the governments of the world should be investing in fusion, but nuclear is the way that we can currently curb greenhouse gases and still provide enough energy for the developed world and those still catching up.

  27. Helium 3 is produced when recycling spent nuclear fuel rods. We can recycle what we have already used on the way to the future. Just saying.

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