Nuclear fusion: this is how the “artificial sun” can win the energy challenge

The energy that “moves the sun and the other stars” is the new frontier to which we look for a truly sustainable future. While the topic of the green transition has urgently entered the political …

Nuclear fusion: this is how the "artificial sun" can win the energy challenge

The energy that “moves the sun and the other stars” is the new frontier to which we look for a truly sustainable future. While the topic of the green transition has urgently entered the political agendas and industrial plans of half the world, the development of technologies connected to nuclear fusion represents one of the most promising challenges of progress. Universities, research centers and institutional bodies are in fact concentrating significant investments to achieve the civil use of the aforementioned form of power: a goal that until a few decades ago seemed like science fiction and which today is instead considered a horizon that is not only viable but also advantageous for all of humanity.

Fusion is the nuclear reaction that occurs in the sun and other stars, producing an enormous amount of energy. Two nuclei of light elements, such as deuterium and tritium, at very high temperatures and pressures, fuse to form nuclei of heavier elements such as helium, with the emission of large quantities of energy. Since no containment material would resist the temperature levels required for this process, it is necessary to magnetically confine the hot plasma inside a reactor, without it touching the walls. The tokamak is an example of a toroidal-shaped container, characterized by a hollow casing – the “doughnut” – in which the plasma is confined by a magnetic field with spiral lines of force. L'energy produced it's almost unlimited, safe and above all clean. Her positive impact on the challenge of decarbonisation, therefore, can be understood without too much difficulty.

The advantages they are in fact of an environmental nature (fusion does not produce greenhouse gases and, unlike fission, does not generate radioactive waste), but also of an economic and energetic nature: according to some estimates, a glass of fuel would be enough to power a house for more than 800 years. For this reason, experiments and tests continue throughout the world to bring humanity ever closer to the realization of a “artificial sun” capable of saving the society of the next century from the problem of energy supply. The development of fusion energy is starting throughout Europe and Italy is also among the countries most interested in supporting this technology. The possible return of our country to nuclear power, but with an eye to innovation in the future, will be one of the themes at the center of theevent organized by The newspaper in Genoa: next Wednesday 15 May, from 9.30 to 13, at Palazzo Ducale the big names in the economy and business will discuss the challenges of sustainability, interviewed by the most esteemed authors of our newspaper.

The morning of debates will be enriched by an exclusive interview with our director, Alessandro Sallustito the Minister of the Environment and Energy Security, Gilberto Pichetto Fratin. It will be an opportunity to understand our country's strategies in the path of the green transition, with the government which, by the end of the legislature, intends to pass all the legislation necessary to reintroduce nuclear power in Italy. Our country, moreover, would be anything but unprepared for this return: we are in fact leaders in the European fusion program, second only to Germany. Furthermore, as recently recalled by Francesco Corvaro, the government's special envoy for climate change, “we have an industrial sector and very high know-how in the sector“. Furthermore – he added – “we work on fusion, that is, the energy that will probably allow us, close to 2050, to take a decisive step forward towards the complete abandonment of fossil fuels“.

Yes, because the aforementioned technology represents a real turning point, as well as a concrete answer to the great questions of the present time on the fate of the Planet from an environmental point of view. The clean energy obtained from nuclear fusion also puts a stop to the theories of prophets of degrowth, who – in the name of green – would like to stop progress, economic growth and therefore life. On the contrary, it is precisely from technological future and from innovation come the most reassuring alternatives capable of combining eco-climatic protection and well-being. In this regard, it is worth considering that nuclear fusion applied to the civil sector would lead to a greater distribution of wealth, calling into question the geopolitical and strategic dynamics linked to the energy market.

The European Union is already part of the ambitious group together with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA Iter projectfor which it has allocated 5.61 billion euros until 2027 to demonstrate the “scientific and technological feasibility” of fusion as a future source of energy. In the long term, the benefits of these investments should also concern citizens, businesses and the competitiveness of the countries involved.

The race to secure a place in the “(artificial) sun” is on.