A better source of nuclear power?

Scott Jagow Nov 21, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Many years from now, we could look back on this day as a crucial one for the planet. At a ceremony in Paris, the U.S. and 30 other countries agreed to build a nuclear fusion reactor in Southern France. The cost: $13 billion. Fusion is what powers the sun: hydrogen atoms colliding. It could be an answer to the world’s energy problems. Could be. Clive Cookson is science editor for the Financial Times.

CLIVE COOKSON: The existing nuclear power stations work by fission, that’s splitting heavy atoms like uranium and plutonium. And the great advantage of fusion is that it doesn’t produce the large amounts of radioactive waste that fission reactors produce

JAGOW: Advocates say that it’s much safer, it’s much cleaner as you point out. Is there a “but” here?

COOKSON: The “but” is that there’s a risk that it really, for scientific and technical reasons, that it won’t work. Smaller projects have shown that it should work but no one can be sure that it is really going to work in practice.

JAGOW: This idea was first proposed a couple of decades ago by Gorbachev and Reagan. Now the pieces are in place and the money is also there to make this happen?

COOKSON: It’s taken a long time coming, but now for the first time there is a real international commitment and I think how quickly it goes will depend partly on the sort of political, financial, industrial urgency. If there really is an energy supply crisis with oil and gas, and if global warming really does seem to be causing serious problems, then it perhaps could go faster.

JAGOW: Clive Crookson of the Financial Times.

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