NUCLEAR FISSION-A nuclear reaction in which a heavy nucleus splits spontaneously or on impact with another particle, with the release of energy.
NUCLEAR FUSSION - A nuclear reaction in which atomic nuclei of low atomic number fuse to form a heavier nucleus with the release of energy.
When the dangers are spoken of with regard to anything nuclear, odds are what is being spoken of is the Fusion Reactor. But did you know there were variations? Did you know that all NUCLEAR is not cut from the same cloth?
Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Japan’s Fukshima all had one thing in common they are/were Fission reactors. Nuclear Propulsion, as a mode of travel in space, isn’t receiving the right amount of consideration due to the dangers perceived to go along with anything nuclear.
Fussion versus Fission, let’s discuss this. Fussion as a process occurs in nature. Take the Sun, fussion is a natural process there – the fusing of two (or more) atoms into one larger atom. The fission reaction does not occur in nature as it is the splitting of a large atom into two or more smaller ones. The by-products are the major area of concern. In Fission the by-products are many highly radioactive particles; In fussion, not the case. Not very many radioactive particles are produced though it differs as if a fission trigger is used radioactive particle will result from that. Since the goal of this is energy, than the fission which has so many safety concerns must release more energy…Not true. The energy released in Fussion is three to four times greater than that of Fission, and to put how much energy that is into proper perspective, Fission produces energy a million times greater than any chemical reaction so take that and double it, and then double it again.
In short, fussion reactors are incapable of having melt downs (like the fission reactors) because they cannot sustain a chain reaction. Also, they produce little to no radioactive waste (none depends if the right atoms are selected) so radioactive waste is not a complicated problem.
It is obvious which should be selected for Earth, but now think bigger, think of the power & speed that can be added to a space craft. Think of the space craft that carries hundreds of people, not seven. With Nuclear Fussion Propulsion we could be there.
But do we have Nuclear Fussion Plants? Currently we haven’t completely developed the technology, but in January a researcher a UPM (Universidad Politecnica de Madrid) patented his design for a nuclear fussion reactor that had the capability to be used to generate electric power or power a ship. Get this! It uses as a fuel hydrogen isotopes that can be extracted from water allowing not only a significant savings in fuel, but in a way, its green! Also, the NIF ( National Ignition Facility) had a recent break through as did MIT (Mass. Institute of Technology). ITER & DEMO, a project in France that is being funded by a group of countries plans for the manufacturing if ITER (The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) and upon its successful introduction, then DEMO (Demonstration Power Plant)will follow. The principal utilizes a circular (toroidal) magnetic chamber that compresses atoms to achieve fusion. And that isn’t all of it. Currently there are 8 other major projects world-wide. Given the knowledge that we are on the cusp of this major step, perhaps we should clear the way legally for the step into Nuclear Fussion Propulsion. Early on (~1958) versions of Nuclear Fission Propulsion were explored in various Projects from Project Orion to Project Daedelus…, but public opinion and political views shut them down. Given this change to a safer and naturally occurring format, certainly it can be revisited? Go Green-Go Nuclear Fussion!