Fight for fusion

25.01.36: TWO COMPANIES are locked in a race to develop the means to generate cheap and unlimited energy for mankind.

After a 75-year struggle to harness the source of the sun's energy, Britain and Japan have simultaneously developed their own nuclear fusion reactors.

A fusion reactor works by bonding two light atomic nuclei, thereby liberating a damburst of nuclear binding energy. The energy yielded from this process is far greater than the binding energy liberated in the splitting, or fission, of heavy nuclei in a conventional nuclear reactor. Fusion's other great advantage is that it uses deuterium, which is easily obtainable from sea water.

The ITER Corporation of Suffolk, England, developed its deuterium-helium-3 reactor at exactly the same moment as Artemis Industries of Japan perfected its deuterium-tritium fusion reactor.

Energy experts say that both kinds of nuclear reactor have their advantages and disadvantages. A helium-3-burning reactor produces less radioactive waste while a deuterium-tritium reactor is technically simpler because it works at lower temperatures. The deciding factor in the fight for market domination could be the availability of helium-3, which is mined on the moon at great expense.

However, a spokesman for ITER said the company intends to exploit an alternative supply of its raw material by "breeding" helium-3 from lithium, which is relatively common on Earth. MC