Austin’s atomic numbers ⚛️

Radioactive waste is stored on-site and never touches water.

A view of a nuclear power plant spilling clouds of water vapor.

Those clouds are clean water vapor, not smoke.

Photo via Unsplash

You might have heard some big news in clean energy lately. Scientists in California managed “fusion ignition” for the first time ever. All this might cause some confusion, so let’s make it nuclear.

  • Fusion shoves atomic nuclei together. It’s how stars get their power. Fission splits atoms apart.
  • 20% of electricity generated nationwide already comes from fission, according to the Department of Energy. That 20% is produced by just 92 nuclear reactors. Did you know? The nearest one is the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station, located in Bay City (~3 hours away).
  • Ignition just means they got more energy out of the reaction than they put infusing atoms is hard work.

Putting it all together: fusion reactions have the potential to produce much more energy than fission reactions, and produce only helium (read: no radioactive waste). Ignition is a big step in that direction.

So, if you happen to know any nuclear engineers, make sure to say congratulations.

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