FUSION REACTOR
The magnetic coils inside the compact fusion experiment pictured in an undated photo provided by Lockheed Martin.REUTERS/LOCKHEED MARTIN

The first reactor based on nuclear fusion will be ready in a decade according to a Lockheed Martin Corp announcement on Wednesday.

Nuclear fusion is believed to be able to deliver ten million times more energy than a fossil fuel plant.

The company claimed to have made a technological breakthrough that would allow it to roll out the first reactor, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, in the coming decade.

The initial work has proven the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, about 10 times smaller than current reactors, reports Reuters.

The company claimed its 60 years of research on fusion has shown that the energy source is safer and more efficient than fission reactors.

Global energy consumption is expected to rise by 41% from 2012 to 2035 and 95% of that growth in demand is expected to come from the emerging economies like China and India.

However, with pressures of climate change that requires a shift from fossil fuels, the search has been on for a green source that meets the demand without compromising the planet's future.

While renewable energy has been shown to be able to improve its contribution to the energy mix, it will take some time before it can meet the energy demand solely.

It is there that nuclear energy fits in. However, nuclear fission which is the technique employed in today's reactors, results in radioactive waste and also poses the dangers of a repeat of Chernobyl or Fukoshima.

Nuclear fusion has been the dream of scientists. By unleashing the power of the sun in the reactor, it can more than meet global energy demand and do it in a safe, climate-friendly way.

The process that powers the sun and stars sees the fusion of light atoms like hydrogen at very high temperatures and pressures that generate plasma.

Science has developed devices that can produce temperatures ten times that of the sun and contain the plasma using strong magnetic cages like the tokomak. The challenge has been to manufacture materials that can withstand the temperatures.

Basic fusion fuels from which hydrogen isotopes are extracted are water and lithium, available in plenty. The isotopes when fused at high temperatures generate a tremendous amount of energy, almost ten million times that generated by fossil fuel plants.

Besides, there are no radioactive wastes generated and no dangers of contamination. The process at the most will not be able to sustain itself and will shut down, say scientists.