Environmental Engineering Reference
plasma—a sort of gas in which
electrons are separated from
atoms. The nuclei in the plasma
move about at terrii c speeds.
Normally, the nuclei—which are
all positively charged—would
be expected to push each other
away. Inside the Sun, though,
nuclei slam into each other
with such speed that they
Creating conditions like
this on Earth takes enormous
energy. Energy is needed not
only to heat the fuel but also to
keep the hot nuclei from l ying
away. Inside the Sun, this job
of coni ning the nuclei is done
by the Sun's gravity. On Earth,
scientists have tried different methods to coni ne the nuclei.
So far, none of the methods has fully succeeded, but scientists
continue to work on fusion.
A miniature nuclear plant—
which can be looked at as a type
of nuclear battery—could come
in handy in remote areas that
need electricity. Several groups
are exploring the idea. One is
the Japanese company Toshiba.
Its mini-nuclear plant would be
buried deep underground. The
plant would run for 30 years or
so before it would need to be
refueled or replaced.
It is becoming more and more important to i nd alternatives to
fossil fuels. Nuclear i ssion may be one of those alternatives. It
is a practical energy source, it is available now, and people have
a great deal of experience using it. Will its use increase in the
future? That depends on how it will compare to other energy
sources, especially regarding cost and safety.