By Vena Carter
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Extra info for Advanced Nuclear Physics
An inertial confinement fusion implosion in Nova, creating "microsun" conditions of tremendously high density and temperature rivaling even those found at the core of our Sun. As a power source, even the best IFE reactors would be hard-pressed to deliver the same economics as coal, although they would have advantages in terms of less pollution and global warming. Coal can simply be dug up and burned for little financial cost, one of the main costs being shipping. In terms of the turbomachinery and generators, an IFE plant would likely cost the same as a coal plant of similar power, and one might suggest that the "combustion chamber" in an IFE plant would be similar to those for a coa l plant.
Workable designs for a reactor which will theoretically deliver ten times more fusion energy than the amount needed to heat up plasma to required temperatures (see ITER) is scheduled to be operational in 2018. It takes considerable energy to force nuclei to fuse, even those of the lightest element, hydrogen. This is because all nuclei have a positive charge (due to their protons), and as like charges repel, nuclei strongly resist being p ut too c lose together. Accelerated to high speeds (that is, heated to thermonuclear temperatures), they can overcome this electromagnetic repulsion and get close enough for the attractive nuclear force to be sufficiently strong to achieve fusion.
Also the smaller a thermonuclear bomb is, the "dirtier" it is, that is to say, the percentage of energy produced in the explosion by fusion is decreased while the percent produced by fission reactions tends toward unity (100%). This did not stop efforts to design such a system however, leading to the PACER concept. If some source of compression could be found, other than a nuclear bomb, then the size of the reaction could be scaled down. This idea has been of intense interest to both the bomb- making and fusion energy communities.