I was reading this article by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that answered the question,

Does Fusion produce radioactive nuclear waste the same way fission does?

Nuclear fission power plants have the disadvantage of generating unstable nuclei; some of these are radioactive for millions of years. Fusion on the other hand does not create any long-lived radioactive nuclear waste. A fusion reactor produces helium, which is an inert gas. It also produces and consumes tritium within the plant in a closed circuit. Tritium is radioactive (a beta emitter) but its half life is short. It is only used in low amounts so, unlike long-lived radioactive nuclei, it cannot produce any serious danger. The activation of the reactor’s structural material by intense neutron fluxes is another issue. This strongly depends on what solution for blanket and other structures has been adopted, and its reduction is an important challenge for future fusion experiments.

This was intrguing to me, and hence, I dug deeper, and found a study, that concluded that, (note: i did not have access to the entire study, I would have to pay for that)

Practically, mobile radioactive materials may reach to 1 kg for tritium and 1000 kg for dust in fusion reactor. Massive quantity of radioactivity release could not be avoided according to the viewpoint of statistical risk analysis.

However, if this estimate were to be true, would 1kg of Tritium and 1000kg of dust really be dangerous/hazardous in anyway(if mismanaged)? I do understand that is hypothetical, however, as mentioned in the first qoute, Tritium is radioactive(a beta emitter and half-life of tritium is 12.33 years). So would these estimates be hazardous, if they were completely released into the environment? or is it just negligible and we can claim that an hypothetical fusion plant would be clean and safe?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It should ask how much. For that, conditions and the acceptable risk level should be specified. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented May 19 at 6:06
  • $\begingroup$ I would re-read the abstract/highlights as it goes into detail. It posits that even in the event of an accident the threat would not be as large as that faced during the two most severe historical accidents, but not negligible. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn
    Commented May 19 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @BuckThorn I came across another article(FAQ of sorts) about Tritium. (semspub.epa.gov/work/HQ/175261.pdf) This makes it seem relatively not that harmful either(if mis-managed) as in comparison to fission and even fossil fuels for that matter. $\endgroup$
    – Ronith
    Commented May 19 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know if mismanagement is the correct term. Accidents occur for many reasons. The article by Nie et al discusses nuclear event scales which it uses to classify the expected maximum potential severity of an event at a fusion plant. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn
    Commented May 19 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ There are big differences in the risk of fission vs. fusion leakage. 1. Fission is self-sustaining (iaea.org/newscenter/news/…), and shutting a reactor requires a positive action, whereas fusion stops when fuel or energy are cut off. 2. Fission reactors accumulate energy stored as heat, and are slow to respond; fusion operates with far less mass. That said, fusion certainly does produce radiaoctive waste, both in the container and in products. $\endgroup$ Commented May 19 at 16:53


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