Beyond the Headlines: can nuclear fusion save the planet?

Scientists recently took a major step in the development of a new, near limitless, very clean new energy source. Can it help us cut carbon dioxide emissions and halt climate change?

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The world needs to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions by the middle of the century to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Huge sums are being poured into wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and other alternative energies. But in February, scientists in the UK announced a major step in the development of generating nuclear fusion — a new and potentially incredibly powerful energy source.

It is the reaction that powers the sun, is totally safe and — unlike current nuclear fission — it doesn't create large quantities of hazardous nuclear waste. But cracking it is also one of the hardest scientific and engineering feats ever undertaken.

However, the team at the Jet Laboratory in the UK, part of the European-wide push to bring commercial nuclear fusion online, undertook a five-second test and broke the record for energy production.

So what exactly is nuclear fusion, when will we be able to use it and can it help us stop climate change?

This week, on Beyond the Headlines, we spoke to Dr Mark Wenman, the director of the centre for doctoral training in nuclear energy futures at Imperial College London, Dr Ambrogio Fasoli, the chair of the Eurofusion Consortium that is leading the research into this new energy source, and Dana Hamad, a nuclear engineer and sustainability consultant in the UAE.

Updated: February 18, 2022, 3:13 PM