nuclear fusion Sandia Labs/Flickr

Mettre le Soleil en bouteille

LONDRES – Au mois de décembre, les dirigeants du monde vont se réunir à Paris à la Conférence des Nations Unies sur le Changement climatique, où ils tenteront (une fois encore), de négocier un accord mondial visant à réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre. En dépit du sentiment inévitable de déjà vu que partageront les négociateurs dans leurs efforts pour parvenir à un compromis, ils ne doivent pas baisser les bras. Quelles que soient les considérations politiques ou économiques, une chose est sûre : si les températures mondiales augmentent de plus de 2°C par rapport aux niveaux préindustriels, les conséquences pour la planète seront catastrophiques.

Mais le défi ne sera pas résolu par la réduction des émissions. En effet, même si nous faisons la transition vers un monde plus propre d'ici 2050, nous aurons besoin de répondre à l'appétit insatiable d'une population mondiale en plein essor en l'énergie sur le long terme : un impératif auquel les énergies renouvelables à elles seules ne peuvent pas répondre. C'est pourquoi nous devons investir dès à présent dans d'autres technologies capables de compléter les énergies renouvelables et de fournir une électricité fiable pendant les nombreux siècles à venir. Et l'une des options les plus prometteuses est la fusion nucléaire : le processus qui alimente le soleil et toutes les étoiles.

Ramené sur Terre, la fusion nucléaire (un processus principalement alimenté par du lithium et du deutérium (un isotope de l'hydrogène), qui se trouvent tous deux en abondance dans l'eau de mer et dans la croûte terrestre), pourrait fournir une importante source d'énergie à faible émission de carbone. Une centrale électrique à fusion utiliserait seulement autour 450 kilogrammes de carburant par an, ne produirait aucune pollution atmosphérique et ne causerait aucun risque d'accidents pouvant provoquer une contamination radioactive de l'environnement.

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