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South Korea Breaks Nuclear Fusion Record AGAIN; Nuclear Fusion Potential Too Great to Miss?

Dec 21, 2016 04:30 AM EST
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South Korea is at it again, it seems. Scientists working to make nuclear fusion a potential means of energy usage has beaten yet another record after the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor in South Korea maintained "high-performance" plasma in a stable state for 70 seconds this week. This is the longest ever recorded for this type of reaction.

According to Science Alert, containing this kind of ultra-hot type of matter is key to unlocking the full potential of nuclear fusion, as it is a big step toward making the entire process clean, safe, and virtual limitless as a form of energy.

Nuclear fusion is vastly different from nuclear fission. Unlike the latter, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together at incredibly high temperatures and is the same thing that powers the sun.

According to World Nuclear News, if we manage to control the reaction in nuclear fusion safely and sustainable, it can generate a huge impact as nuclear fusion can power even the entire world for thousands of years with nothing more than salt water and without generating nuclear waste.

The KSTAR reactor is located at the National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) and is a tokamak-type reactor, where plasma reaching to temperatures around 300-million degrees Celsius are held in place by super-powerful magnetic fields.

If these blobs are contained long enough, they can generate hydrogen atoms that fuse into heavier helium atoms and release energy. This is similar to what is happening in the Sun, which is why reactors are considered to be "stars in a jar."

Although reactors nowadays take up more energy than they produce, every time these records are broken, scientists get closer to their goals. 

According to Seeker, there are plenty of variables scientists can alter to tweak nuclear fusion reactions and measure them according to pressure, temperature and time. 

While there's a trade-off between these variables and usually other reactors have managed to sustain plasma for longer periods of time, the KSTAR managed to do this with high-performance plasma, which is better suited for nuclear fusion.

At the same time, the NFRI also developed a new plasma "operation mode," which can hopefully enable reactions to handle greater pressures at lower temperatures.

If scientists can solve this problem, we can have safer nuclear energy since there is no radioactive waste produced and no chances of a nuclear meltdown.

However, given that there are no published version of the results yet, we have to wait and see if 70 seconds really is the new benchmark to hit for this high-performance plasma.

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