There was a lot of scare about a potential large-scale disaster like the one in Chernobyl or on Three Mile Island during the last decades of the 20th century, which led to the deactivation of many nuclear reactors around the country and a general phasing-out of nuclear energy as a power source. Now, with the desire to be less reliant on foreign oil and fossil fuels in general, nuclear power is growing in popularity again, as a cheap, abundant, alternative energy.
There are also a few projects in the works for creating a type of reactor that has little or no waste product and little danger to humans. One of these is being spearheaded by Bill Gates and will use a more benign uranium isotope as fuel and possibly work in small-scale reactors. Fingers crossed for a handheld!
Stable nuclear fusion reactions are still being researched, and we might see the first nuclear fusion power plant go on-line in the coming decades. Fusion is the process of fusing light atoms into heavier ones, releasing a huge amount of energy — a fusion reactor would essentially be a tiny star. Fusion is also popular for its promise of safety, since it would only operate under optimal conditions, meaning a malfunction or imperfection would cause a shutdown, rather than a meltdown.
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