There was no topic heading regrading nuclear fusion, so I though that I would make one.
Nuclear Fusion:
This topic was briefly introduced by my fellow peers in class today. Fusion is a type of nuclear reaction that generates a great deal amount energy. The current process commercial nuclear power plants use to generate energy is nuclear fission. Fission is the process of breaking apart a massive atom into two smaller ones while fusion is the process of fusing two or more light atoms into one large atom. The idea behind fusion is that this larger atom will have less mass then the sum of the orignal two. This loss of mass results in energy being released. "The equation ΔE = (Mi − Mf)C2 states that kinetic
energy is released by the mass differences of reactants (Mi) and products (Mf)" (Source ).

While fusion can technically take place between any two types of atoms when people refer they are specifically talking about the reaction of two hydrogen atoms fusing together to create helium. The interesting thingabout this specific chemical process is that it is the very same reaction that fuels are sun and many other stars in the universe. It generates a great deal of power which we can use to solve our energy problems. If you want some more specifics about nuclear fusion you guys should check out this article by PHD Criag Freudenrich.

The reason why we have not been able to create a fusion power plant yet is that we have been unable to initiate the reaction under earthly conditions. The great temperature of the sun combined its massive gravitational force allows hydrogen atoms to move so rapidly that they are able to overcome the repulsion between them and fuse. We have yet to find a good way to reproduce the conditions of the sun here on earth in order to conduct a proper fusion reaction. But there is much support to achieve this goal. One of that is the ITER plant that is being built in france. The ITER plant is a joint project between many developed countries of the world to create the worlds first fusion plant. Check out more information about the inter plant here .

Nuclear Fission (what we use now)
Fission occurs when a nucleus splits into smaller parts creating two smaller nuclei and free photons and neutrons which are released as gamma rays. Fission of heavy elements can create a large amount of energy, which is why we use uranium as fuel for commercial nuclear fission.

When an atom of Uranium is hit with a neutron at high speeds, it breaks up into two smaller atoms and releases other fast moving neutrons in the process. Most commercial reactors work like this, causing a controlled chain reaction between uranium atoms. This process releases a lot of heat energy, which is used to heat water to create steam, which is in turn used to power generators and create electricity. However, this process creates a lot of nuclear waste but until someone creates a fussion rector fission is going to be the only source of nuclear power.

The two main types of reactors used are Pressurized Water Reactors and Boiling Water Reactors. The difference between the two is that in a PWR the water that comes in dirrect contact with the reactor does not boil but gets to about 315 degrees Celcius. In a BWR the water boils as it goes throught the reactor.
Nuclear Power Plants in Illinois
Net Generation and Capacity, 2008
Plant Name
Unit Number
Net Capacity MW
Net Generation Thousand Kwh
Capacity Factor (percent)
Operator/Owner
Braidwood
1
1,178
10,463
101
Exelon Generation/Exelon Generation, LLC
Braidwood
2
1,152
9,323
92
Total

2,330
19,786
97
--
Byron
1
1,164
9,733
95
Exelon Generation/Exelon Corporation
Byron
2
1,136
9,624
96
Total

2,300
19,358
96
--
Dresden
2
867
7,468
98
Exelon Generation/Exelon Nuclear
Dresden
3
867
6,917
91
Total

1,734
14,385
95
--
LaSalle
1
1,118
8,884
90
Exelon Generation/Exelon Nuclear
LaSalle
2
1,120
9,965
101
Total

2,238
18,849
96
--
Quad Cities
1
867
7,490
98
Exelon Generation/(dual ownership) 1
Quad Cities
2
867
6,735
88
Total

1,734
14,225
94
--
Clinton
1
1,043
8.550
93
Exelon Generation/Exelon Nuclear



Energy Crisis Solution:
It seems as though each of these pages argues that one form of energy will be the solution of the energy crisis. This is simply untrue and oversimplified. Consider the advantages and disadvantages to each source of energy. For instance, while wind energy is ideal for parts of the world that receive constant wind, that may not be the most effective source of energy here in Illinois. Algae may be best for the government military engines, but has the potential to disrupt the ecosystem. There is no one solution to energy. In fact, the best solution may involve using multiple energy forms to sustain us.

The point isn't to entirely replace one source over another, that would be foolhardy. Instead, multiple energy sources should be available to counterbalance all the pros and cons each has to offer. More importantly, multiple sources have to be available as back ups in case one fails or the resources to obtain the energies run out. What would happen if an area fully dependent on algae for fuel suddenly took a beating from a tornado, or perhaps the economy crashes worse, and all the government funding for the technology for solar energy retrieval or nuclear fusion processes suddenly stops? The constant bickering over the superiority of one source over another is slowing the race down. As always, balance is the key.