Nuclear fusion and mini-fission
Nuclear fusion has long promised to be tomorrow’s energy technology – it promises to be able to produce at a scale and cost unrivalled by any other source, and to lessen the challenges around fuel and waste.
Many observers expect the breakthrough of fusion technology to radically reshape power generation after 2050. Unlike its fission counterpart, however, a fusion reactor may not fit easily into the kinds of distribution models that exist today. Given the potentially enormous size and output of a fusion reactor – and the fact that it would have to run constantly apart from planned shutdowns – accommodating its output would require a huge investment in transmission capacity.
At the other end of the scale are mini-reactors performing nuclear fission. There are already nuclear-powered submarines; however, if they were to become more economic in the late 21st century, their smaller size could help reduce the barriers to a large-scale nuclear rollout.