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University of Washington fusion reactor promises "cheaper than coal" energy


The key to this whether it's possible to turn fusion reactor technology from a laboratory exercise into a real-world application. Engineers that the University of Washington (UW) are working on a fusion reactor that, when scaled up, could produce energy on a practical scale, yet at a cost rivaling that of a conventional coal-powered plant.

Nuclear fusion, as the name implies, is based on fusing hydrogen atoms to form helium; a process that releases tremendous amounts of energy. According to science writer Ben Bova, a single glass of water could produce as much energy as half a million barrels of petroleum. It would also be safer than current nuclear plants that rely on splitting heavy atoms, there would be no chance of a meltdown or spewing radioactive fuel into the air, and very little radioactive waste. And since it uses hydrogen as fuel, there would be enough to last until the end of time.

Long term, its looks brilliant, but at the moment it's a hopeless non-starter that's too impractical and too expensive to leave the laboratory.

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