Our sun, and all the other stars in the universe, are powered by nuclear fusion. Similar to traditional nuclear power, or fission, it can produce huge amounts of carbon-neutral energy. But there is one vital difference: no dangerous, long-lasting radioactive waste. Waste from nuclear fusion is only radioactive for 50–70 years, compared to the thousands of years of radioactivity that result from fission. “This is a long-term supply of energy,” says Professor Mike Dunne of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. “You can get a lot of energy from a small amount of fuel and the by-products are benign.”
Nuclear fusion could also help meet international climate change targets, such as those agreed by politicians in Washington last month. Current zero-carbon technologies are unlikely to meet our energy demands this century. Nuclear power is deeply unpopular while renewable energy sources – wind, solar and tidal – yield relatively little energy for their high cost. But nuclear fusion could render carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels obsolete by 2100.