Scientists unlock the power of the sun

Star power: The reactor has to get to a heat of up to 150 million C to work. © EUROfusion

Would unlimited energy make us happy? A nuclear breakthrough could give us endless, clean power. It might help fight the climate crisis – but do we need so much electricity?

What’s happening

The year is 2041. It has been 20 years since the nuclear fusion revolution. It is a bright evening in London. People zoom around on electric scooters and bikes.

Everywhere, lights are shining from buildings. Huge TV screens show a live stream of the latest news from the galaxy.

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This is what life could look like soon. Last week, scientists in England made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion. It could lead to unlimited power.

Fusion is a reaction that happens when two atoms are forced together. When they join, they create lots of energy. It is the same reaction that happens every day in the sun.

We already use nuclear energy. But this is made by splitting atoms apart. That creates energy – and lots of dangerous waste.

Fusion is clean and could last forever. Fusion reactions have always used too much energy to be worth it. Last week, scientists found a way to keep them cooler.

They plan to build a bigger test centre by 2023. If it is a success, we may soon have endless energy.

But would that be a good idea?

Some say…

Yes! It would make life so much easier. Nothing would run out of battery. Everyone would be in electric cars. We could leave lights on. We could keep the TV on all day long. Best of all, it would solve the climate crisis! We would never have to worry about harming the environment with fossil fuels.

Others think…

Not really. Electricity is useful, but we do not need it all the time. If it was endless, we would forget how to live without it. What would happen if there was a power cut? We would be helpless. And we would forget what the natural world was like. We would be glued to screens. It is better to have limits.

You Decide

  1. What has been the most important scientific discovery in human history?

Activities

  1. Draw a picture of life in 2080. How will technology have changed our lives?

Some People Say...

“The only way you can predict the future is to build it.”

Alan Kay (1940 – ), American computer scientist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Nuclear fusion
A reaction where atoms are blasted together so quickly that they join – or fuse – together.
Revolution
A sudden change in the way things are done.
Breakthrough
A sudden advance or successful discovery in science.
Unlimited
Having no limits or restrictions.
Atoms
An atom is the basic building block for all matter in the universe. They are made up of electrons, protons and neutrons.
Sun
The sun glows because hydrogen atoms constantly fuse into helium, creating energy.
Dangerous
Waste from nuclear energy is radioactive. This means it gives off invisible waves that can harm people. It is often buried underground to keep people safe.

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