How It Works

Can fusion reactors break anything into atoms?

Nuclear fusion powers the Sun and it happens when hydrogen nuclei fuse together to make helium nuclei. Extremely high pressures and temperatures (around the 10-million-degree-Celsius/18-million-degree-Fahrenheit mark) inside the Sun allow fusion to occur.

On Earth the temperature inside a fusion reactor has to be much higher – around 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) – to compensate for our inability to create similar pressures to those found in our Solar System’s star.

In such extreme conditions, hydrogen and helium exist as plasma – where all the electrons are stripped of atoms and can move freely. Anything else present inside a fusion reactor would therefore break down into its elemental parts as a result of this subatomic deconstruction.