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Fusion Reactors May be Economically Viable to Generate Electricity

First Posted: Oct 02, 2015 11:50 AM EDT

Fusion reactors could actually become an economically viable way to generate electricity within a few decades. Scientists have taken a closer look at the technology and have suggested that policy makers should start planning to build them as a replacement for conventional nuclear power stations.

In this latest study, the researchers re-examined the economics of fusion, taking account of recent advances in superconductor technology for the first time. Their analysis of building, running and decommissioning a fusion power station shows the financial feasibility of fusion energy in comparison to traditional fission nuclear power.

The advantage of fusion reactors over current fission reactors is that they create almost no radioactive waste. Fusion reactors are safer as there is no high level radioactive material to potentially leak into the environment, which means disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima are impossible because the plasma simply fizzles out if it escapes.

"Fission, fusion or fossil fuels are the only practical options for reliable large-scale base-load energy sources," said Damian Hampshire, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Calculating the cost of a fusion reactor is complex, given the variations in the cost of raw materials an exchange rates. However, this work is a big step in the right direction." He went on to say that "While there are still some technological challenges to overcome we have produced a strong argument, supported by the best available data, that fusion power stations could soon be economically viable."

The findings are published in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design.

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