Competition to Achieve Viable Nuclear Fusion Heating Up


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t The Register The international ITER Fusion project might be mired in cost overruns and severe delays, but competition is heating up, between China and Germany, to create a viable nuclear fusion reactor.

Back in December, WUWT reported that Germany had started testing their Stellarator Fusion Reactor with Helium Plasmas.

Since that time, China has responded with a 100 second sustained fusion burn – a feat they hope in the near future to extend to 1000 seconds (16 minutes).

A team of Chinese scientists in Hefei, capital city of east China’s Anhui Province, has made an unprecedented breakthrough on an energy generation device that will make it one step closer to transform energy into stable, sustainable and controllable resources.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion device, nicknamed “artificial sun”, made a 102-second long pulse plasma discharge at over the central electron temperature of 50 million degrees in Hefei at the end of January, 2016. This is the longest plasma discharge time recorded in all the Tokamak fusion devices in the world.

Led by the Chinese scientists at the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Heifei, the EAST fusion device has made it one step closer to the goal of 1000-second long pulse plasma discharge at over the central electron temperature of 100 million degrees.

Read more:

Its not just China and Germany. India, which is supplying many of the components used in the ITER project, announced their own fusion project in 2015.

The US government has also shown interest in Fusion, though the current administration seems to be mainly focussed on renewables. Which is rather a shame, because nuclear fusion is one of the few fields of research where scale really matters.

The biggest problem with sustaining a nuclear fusion reaction is keeping the plasma hot. If you heat something to 100 million degrees, it really wants to transfer its heat to anything cold in its immediate vicinity. One possible solution to this heat problem is to scale existing designs up, to create a really large plasma. Simple geometry dictates that a larger plasma has a more favourable surface area to volume ratio. Since heat is created by the plasma volume, but lost through the plasma surface, improving the surface area to volume ratio helps to keep the plasma hot – maybe enough to create a viable, self sustaining fusion burn.

Since American fusion researchers don’t have access to the same level of funding as German, Chinese or UN ITER researchers, they’re focusing on innovation. Firms like Lockheed Martin are attempting to use clever engineering, to make up for the lack of scale.

The innovative approach being pursued by America may or may not yield results. Fusion is full of pioneers who believe they had almost solved the problem. Robert Bussard, one of America’s nuclear fusion pioneers, at the time of his death was attempting to raise funding for a large scale Polywell Fusion Reactor. Sadly Bussard died, before he could achieve his life’s ambition, and conduct a full scale test of his ideas.

The concern for America is, or should be, that the brute force approach, building big, will almost certainly lead to viable nuclear fusion. If the ridiculous sums of money America spends on renewables, were diverted to fusion research, America would leap ahead of the competition. Current generation reactors are tantalisingly close to success.

Germany, China and India are taking an interest in Fusion, because they know that whoever cracks the fusion problem, will own the world.

The lack of US government interest in nuclear fusion may be due to pressure from green groups. For example, Greenpeace is strongly critical of nuclear fusion research; they think the money should be spent on renewables.

Regardless of the reason, relying just on innovation, as the USA seems to be doing, in my opinion is a huge gamble. If it pays off, it will pay off big. But if the problems encountered by the innovators prove to be intractable, as they likely will, the countries which went large will win the prize. By ignoring fusion, or at least not treating it as seriously as other countries, America is at risk of losing her competitive advantage, for decades to come.

156 thoughts on “Competition to Achieve Viable Nuclear Fusion Heating Up

    • “Note to Greenpeace: We won’t be going to the stars on biodiesel!”

      I think that’s the point. Greenpeace hates people. The last thing they want is for people to spread out among the stars.

      • Yes but bio-diesel also ‘hates’ nature. Agriculture is the single largest (by far) mechanism by which man destroys wildlife. Bio fuels just continues and enhances this process.

        Greenpeace (a once laudable outfit) is sadly now no more than a bunch of ignorant bleating idiots.

      • Greenpeace used to have a round the world motor boat that was supposed to run on liposuction fat. How are you going to sustain that without fat people ??

        It got sort of submarined in a tangle with a Japanese Scientific Whale research ship. They do research to see how many whales they can kill and cut up, before the Greenpeace gnats bug the hell out of them.

        I have a bunch of up close and personal photos of that thigh grease rocket ship when it was parked at the dock in the Viaduct Harbor in Auckland, circa 2006/7 as I recall.

        But meanwhile, back at the Stellarator. What good is a plasma discharge in Helium ??

        Trying to jump from He to C in a nuclear fusion, would not seem to me to be the easiest way to infinite energy.

        How much nuclear fusion energy did this 100 second burn put out ??

        I thought the fusion energy was supposed to keep the plasma hot; isn’t the heat the output energy, or is it the KE of the neutrons that it makes ??

        When it goes on a power grid, you can wake me.


      • George, you wrote “Trying to jump from He to C in a nuclear fusion, would not seem to me to be the easiest way to infinite energy.”

        The use of helium in the Stellarator was for test and calibration purposes, basically to see if the systems were running and adjusted properly. It was not used as a fuel source.

      • That’s right, Hivemind. Greenpeace is populated by misanthropes, most of whom don’t realize they’re misanthropes. They think humans are unnatural, somehow, akin to a plague or a disease. They cannot imagine that humans have enormous positive potential for spreading life throughout a vast and lifeless space.

    • They are hoping it will be done on ‘hope and change’. Borrow a nickel and throw it into the wind. That’s their hope and change.

      • I don’t know what is being tested and calibrated if the helium is not even a real part of the intended process (as an input). it clearly won’t be running and adjusted properly if the wrong materials are used.


    • Oh, great Steven!
      Now you want us to go ruin the environment on the Moon?
      Mess up the Eden that is Mars?

    • GreenPeace is just the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century luddites. Anything new is bad. Back to good old windmills, comrades!

  1. Of course Obama won’t go after fusion. The only way to reduce civilization to mud huts and loin cloths are through subsidize sucking poverty producing renewables.

      • Speaking of the Mohammedans; have you read or seen any sort of historically detailed description of how Joshua led the children of Israel as they ” wandered ” around in the wilderness, trying to find their way to the promised land (of Canaan). You know the story about the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

        Quite eye opening to say the least.

        Not being judgemental or anything; simply commenting about what was presumably history way back.


    • Fusion, Nuclear, and other practical solutions for energy production are not acceptable to Obama because they are not taxable as a means of wealth redistribution. Taxing CO2 output as a way way to discourage CO2 output, then transferring the tax to poor nations for not burning fossil fuels sounds reasonable to liberals, all be it stupid. The reality is none of it will reduce CO2 output nor is it intended to do so. It is intended to be a perpetual source of revenue. Like the gas tax that was supposed to maintain our roads, it will be used for whatever purpose politicians and special interests desire, not to reduce global warming which has little to do with CO2.

      Obama/Greens do not want Fusion or Nuclear because those are actual solutions to CO2 emissions that would end the need for a carbon tax; better to promote solar and wind that cannot solve a non-existent problem.

  2. Energy is money. The government wants that revenue. It is like the butcher with his thumb on the scales, IMO.

    • How so? Do PVs and 8kWh batteries return money to the government? US policy is to subsidise renewables not tax them.

      • And where do you suppose those monies come from to provide the subsidies? The US government has absolutely no money for subsidies that it doesn’t take from its citizens.

      • Subsidies return money to the government by increased taxes or by inflation, that reduces the value of money, in order to subsidize whatever is subsidized. Where else does that magic money come from?

      • Subsidized lunacies are an easy excuse to raise more taxes. Some parts of the electorate are buying it.

        Remember, politicians are in the opinions buying business.

  3. Or this is another periodic call for funds like the other ones over the past 30 years or so. This time they are adding the “hurry now or be left out” sales pitch.

    • I read about fusion in the 1970s. It was about 30 years away then. Now, it’s only three decades away.

    • I’ve got a horse right here, his name is Paul Revere, he runs much better if the weather’s clear, can do, can do.

      [??? .mod]

    • It’s been more than 30 years. I first heard these pitches for fusion when I was in school in the mid-1950’s. Sixty years ago we studied fusion energy in my sixth grade science class. The local electric company even provided us with class room appropriate comic books about atomic energy. Fission was the energy too cheap to meter that was going to change the world and fusion was just five years away. And today we are using old fashoned wind mills not too much different than they used in the middle ages!

      • Well, no, Marty. What has been done in fusion since 1955 is basically to fund the Princeton Plasma Physics Department’s pet projects, and call that fusion research. Other small concepts have been starved since 1977, when tokomaks were introduced from the USSR, and carried the day. They proved to be wonderful machines to let grad students finish their thesis, and little else. The *minimum* size tokomak that *might* get to breakeven has a vacuum chamber of 40 meters diameter!

        Small projects are done privately. The Polywell was supported by the Navy till 2014 out of small $2-4 million “discretionary funding” dribbles compared to the $780 million/year sought for the ITER Tokomak. Unfortunately, when the next steps required asking for a line item in the Navy budget that the Princeton crowd could challenge through the DoE, the Navy backed out. Then they told Dr. Park, who had taken over from Dr. Bussard, that he could not talk to any private funders till the State Department decided where the technology stood under ITAR. Last week they announced Polywell was clear to be talked about openly. Dr, Park says he needs $30 million over 3 years for one more data gathering machine, and then $300 million over 5 years to build a 100 megawatt power-producing prototype………………Cross your fingers.

  4. they’ve been at it as long as I can remember
    “JET, the Joint European Torus, is the world’s largest operational magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment, located at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, UK. Based on a tokamak design, the fusion research facility is a joint European project with a main purpose of opening the way to future nuclear fusion grid energy”

    • In my Electro-Dynamics Textbook Chapter 3 on Laplace’s Equation. Problem 3.2

      In one sentence, justify Earnshaw’s Theorem: “A charged particle cannot be held in stable equilibrium by electrostatic forces alone.”

      Later on it says that magnetic fields do NO work on electric charges.

      Maybe fly swatters will work.

      Why does this 100 million kelvin plasma not radiate profusely ?? If all of this vast amount of energy is contained in a magnetic bottle, how to you connect it to the grid; how do you get all of the helium out of it, and put in more hydrogen/deuterium/tritium/whatever ??

      How do you crank the power output up or down as the load demand varies.


  5. sorry, a ‘captain obvious’ question – the only way these will work in power generation is to remove some of the heat to generate steam to turn turbines & generators…but if they remove some of the heat, won’t it weaken or reduce the fusion process? Am I missing something here or are they not even at that point yet?

    • The heat comes from all the neutrons the fusion throws off, which heat up a blanket surrounding the machine.

      • The fusion of deuterium produces no neutrons. Maybe that’s why other reactions are proposed.

      • No. The neutrons are just dangerous bullets that cannot be blocked before they destroy everything and leave a huge radioactive used machine.

        So instead of used irradiated radioactive toxic fission fuel, you have no used fuel and an irradiated radioactive destroyed machine.

      • Actually, I was wrong. The fusion of deuterium under expected conditions yields helium-3 and a neutron.

      • I am of the view that surrounding the fusion reaction with a layer of 100 percent CO2 will easily maintain the heat and sustain the reaction. (An IPCC model told me so)

    • In early D-D reactions the heat is supplied by using the resulting neutrons to heat lithium to gather the heat and provide more fuel. In advanced fusion, D-T, the possibility of magneto hydrodynamics is possible with a more efficient conversion of energy to electricity.

    • There dozens of small scale nuclear fusion projects. Not all of them require thermal conversion to electricity. Focus fusion can capture the energy via induction making it an extremely interesting project.

      Also, a lot of fusion projects are looking at boron + hydrogen fusion which is aneutronic. Ie there are neutrons released in the process. The main problem in the focus fusion project are removing surface impurities in the tungsten cathode. The cathode itself also has to resist being bathed in x-rays which can wear it out.

      But it’s the project I think that is closest to a prototype of a commercial unit. They seem to be making steady progress but really it should be more urgent IMO.

      • The Polywell Fusion reactor does not use heat to generate steam, in turn used to generate electricity.It is a direct conversion system, if I’ve read and understood their literature correctly. The output is direct current in the megavolt range.That’s what made it so attractive to the US Navy.

    • JKrob, Each time two atoms fuse they produce an EMP, this electromagnetic energy is captured by field coils and used to keep the fusion process going, and a small amount of the electrical energy is diverted to the power grid. There is no way to siphon heat from a fusion reactor and use it to make steam.

  6. Another Fusion startup in the UK with great potential and lots of experience.

    High magnetic field pressure using high temperature superconductors allows smaller size.

  7. Obviously it’s time for a Rossi update. :-)

    I haven’t been over there for a couple weeks, let’s pick out some interesting e-catworld posts.
    Besides the original E-Cat, good for low pressure steam and process heat, and Hot-Cat, that runs hot enough to make high pressure steam (but I think there has been no testing with water), there’s a third flavor E-Cat that is being explored, the E-Cat X. Rossi and the people he’s working with haven’t said anything about how it it works, but he claims it directly produces electricity, and the ratio of the two is adjustable, I assume with an upper bound for the electricity.

    I’d assume there’s some sort of magnetohydrodynamics going on, a process that has been touted several times for new power production, but I don’t think has ever really panned out.

    Skepticism welcome!
    Straight from Rossi, no external confirmation that I know about:

    January 21st, 2016 at 9:09 AM
    09.00 a.m. of Thursday, January 2016:

    1 MW E-Cat: stable, some leakage promptly repaired during the last night.

    E-Cat X: operating and technologically improving with the US engineer now in the scientific commettee of Leonardo Corporation that has connections with an important aerospace concern. The technology is definitely improving. By the way: I have gathered in Leonardo Corporation a scientific commettee made by a team of top level scientists and engineers to improve our R&D capacity: these persons, that have honoured us accepting the appointment, are from USA, Europe, Japan, India. We must fight to obtain and perpetuate positive results and remain the number 1 of the sector for ever. Also the management of Leonardo Corporation has been reinforced substantially.

    Warm Regards,


    A year-long test of a 1 MW E-Cat is due to end in the next month or two. It’s required constant attention, and there is limited downtime available. This post has one of his more negative comments:

    Andrea Rossi
    January 29th, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    Please, understand that to put in the markes [market] an immature product in our case could be devastating.

    There is nobody in the world that more than me desires to put massively the E-Cat in the market, but we are not ready. Too bad about sceptics.

    Warm Regards,

    However, that was followed a few hours later with the more positive “Trouble resolved thanks to our great Team!”

    Prototypes can be like that, and apparently things are still prototypes.

    I hope there will be something more substantive coming from Rossi at the conclusion of the test.

    • If Rossi has a real fusion reactor, he doesn’t have to “convince skeptics”.

      All he has to do is set up a fusion reactor the size of a minivan in a public place in the middle of winter, and melt all the snow on the street, and keep the street warm and snow free for a few weeks, without refuelling.

      A nuclear fusion reactor the size of a minivan should have the same energy density as well over a million minivans worth of gasoline – so using nuclear power to heat an entire street for a few weeks, without refuel, in the middle of winter, shouldn’t be a challenge.

      • It’s true–LENR doesn’t give off near the level of radiation that fusion or fission produces. And Rossi isn’t the only person to make the claim–all other researchers in the discipline find the same thing.

      • I suspect one thing that has taken Rossi et al a lot of time is controlling the E-Cat. A lot of their work has been outside of “self-sustain” mode, i.e. they have to add external heat (around 600 W for some devices, IIRC) to get 10 kW out. With a gain like that, they have to be sure to get the heat out because it sounds like a perfect setup for thermal runaway.

        Rossi et al (especially the et al) aren’t interested in public demonstrations, they’re more interested getting something they can manufacture and work.

      • Ric, E-CAT fans can’t have it both ways.

        If the problem which is holding Rossi back is skepticism, the obvious thing to do is stage a public demonstration so compelling, there is no longer any room for skepticism.

        Use that nuclear power to melt the snow, demonstrating an energy density of such magnitude, the source of the heat must be nuclear. Then I will be a lot less skeptical – I’ll probably take the trouble to visit a demonstration, and see for myself.

      • If its any kind of nuclear reaction, I find it hard to see how there could not be low LET radiation, and quite a lot of it.

      • At least Rossi has a working plant in an industrial environment – and been running that plant for near a year. The issue is not LENR being real (that been replicated many times since Pons and Fleishman).

        The issue in Regards to Rossi is HOW much output and how useful the device is in an industrial setting. LENR certainly warrants more research dollars.

        Rossi proves little until such time a working device is released to the public or some kind of credible public demonstration occurs (but Rossi has VERY little reason to do this – he has support of industrial heat, and with that funding the only remaining goal is to produce a commercially viable device – they don’t need more funding since that tends to mean they give up rights to their product).

        Based on Rossi claims, his technology does look to be game changing. Both Toyota and Mitsubishi has re-started their LENR programs.

        Rossi just received a patent, as so did Airbus. So things are moving along quite nicely in the LENR field.

        The question is not really about LENR, but when it will reach commercial viability. As a future energy, LENR looks to be the best bet we have right now.

        Albert D. Kallal
        Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    • Ahhh but then there is this from Rossi:
      “All the sources must be integrated otherwise LENR will be killed.”
      I have suspected that the only reason that LENR (or Pianitelli or R. Mills) has gotten this far is because of all the negative feed back from the physics community that are convinced that all is a sham. If something does come through on the sly, then all h*ll is going to break loose from the entrenched energy establishment and attempted shutdowns and active suppression will be in order at least in the West. Hopefully some of these are far enough along that it will be too too late as they may at least be replicable by others.

    • Huh, in his 2009 patent application, Rossi said, “A practical embodiment of the inventive apparatus, installed on Oct. 16, 2007, is at present perfectly operating 24 hours per day, and provides an amount of heat sufficient to heat the factory of the Company EON of via Carlo Ragazzi 18, at Bondeno (Province of Ferrara).” Seems like things have degraded from “perfectly operating 24 hours per day.”

      • Perfectly operating can include “with too much maintenance required to commercialize as is”.

        Pantents want it to work.
        Commercial wants it to make a profit.

        BIG difference.

      • Rossi is following a parallel business model to Blacklight, now Brilliant Light Power, continually promising the next major advance with prototypes incorporating a new twist but never delivering a working product. About 7 years after the article below, Brilliant Light’s Randell Mills comes out with a new video every so often to bring in a new round of investors and the game plays on.

    • As an outside observer, it seems to be the possible replacements are not huge improvements.
      Sort of like the difference between being shot or hung.

      • Ted Cruz held hearings on Global Warming, and apparently understood the issues involved. Most of the other leading Republicans reject AGW, wirth the proviso that some do not seem as involved as Cruz.

  8. If they can avoid the regulatory system that has built up around fission, then they might be able to produce electricity cheaper than the proposed Hinkley Point C power station.

    • As I see it, the green mafia will insist it is still a nuclear reaction and will need the same or stronger regulations , since it is “untested technology”.

      • The some ecoloons even insist that subsidies for fission innovation, and for fusion research be counted as subsidies for “atomic” research. I guess they also include everything radiation related, including research on medical imaging and maybe even medical isotope production (which is a big issue as very few reactors in the world produce some extremely useful isotopes like technetium).

        But then it allows me to group pretty every use chemical energy in the shell technology, from gasoline to batteries.

        And dams and capacitors can be put together in the potential gradient technologies.

        Grouping is FUN.

      • It’s been in testing since the 1950’s, with the practical uses 30 years away. Nothing much has changed since that time, so the claim that it is untested technology sounds somewhat farcical.

    • Pessimist.

      The brothers were somber when they left Kitty Hawk on 22 August 1901. Despite Chanute and company’s admiration, they considered their experiments a failure and doubted they would continue. The problems they had encountered seemed too complex to overcome. Greater minds with greater resources had tried and failed; who were they to think they could have succeeded? Wilbur told Orville on the train ride back to Dayton, “Not within a thousand years would man ever fly.”

    • I’ve been waiting for it since 1959. It was much less than fifty years in the future, then.

      I know think that we would be better advised to find a way of generating power from misused commas. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of those.

  9. The most exciting thing about controlled fusion is that it is only 10, maybe 15 years away.

    Always has been, appears that it always will be.

    Hope I’m wrong though.

  10. So much for the Obama legacy.

    A US friend of mine recently said China/India are now doing the things the US used to.

    US and UK manufacturing will be tied to wind/solar power & unable to compete.

    • The world is buying a lot of solar panels and wind turbines from China now. If China (or someone else) develops a new technology that is cost effective, it won’t matter because it will be bought and sold so long as it works. Can’t be less energy dense than solar and wind – pun intended.

  11. My biggest disappointment with fusion power is that despite fusing .3kG of helium a day to produce 800 MW of heat the only plane to produce electricity is with steam turbines- 40%ish efficiency. Plasma is an electric current. There has got to be a way to extract electricity from it at better efficiencies.

    The ITER is supposed to weigh 23,000 tons. After 20 years for its planned run it will contain several thousand tons of highly radioactive stainless steel. We can’t even find a way to get rid of fission waste products from reactors. Just the USA has some 80,000 tons of waste nuclear fuel and is producing about 2200 tons a year. An ITER sized machine will produce roughly the same quantity per kWh.

    • Fission “waste” can be separated and reused. It’s possible and it’s done in France.

      The American ecoloons just hate like the idea of recycling.

      • It might better be used to enrich thorium in a reactor which uses sodium salts, eliminating the need for a pressure vessel and having a much longer time between changing the rods.

    • philohippous

      The ITER is supposed to weigh 23,000 tons. After 20 years for its planned run it will contain several thousand tons of highly radioactive stainless steel. We can’t even find a way to get rid of fission waste products from reactors. Just the USA has some 80,000 tons of waste nuclear fuel and is producing about 2200 tons a year. An ITER sized machine will produce roughly the same quantity per kWh.

      Fancy words. Deliberately frightening words even.


      Show your math for that propaganda.

    • This one uses an ionised helium beam (produced by the fusion reaction) generating electricity directly through a coil. (There will also be heat of course but that could perhaps be thermo-coupled into electricity)


      • You link to a crowdsourcing request page. No technical details – unless I spend lots of time digging.

        It is surely possible to generate electricity directly from a beam of charged particles, but that is not how proposed fusion machines work.

      • For Curious George

        One level down from the top menu –

        “The ion beam of charged particles is directed into a decelerator which acts like a particle accelerator in reverse. Instead of using electricity to accelerate charged particles, they decelerate charged particles and generate electricity. Some of this electricity is recycled to power the next fusion pulse while the excess (net) energy is the electricity produced by the fusion power plant. Some of the X-ray energy produced by the plasmoid can also be directly converted to electricity through the photoelectric effect (like solar panels).

        Sorry this was too time consuming to find.

      • LPP seems to me to be an interesting long [Long, LOOOONNNNNG] shot for producing useful energy from fusion. Some things that make them interesting are:
        * Their theory of how and why their device should work is sufficiently respectable that they continue to publish results in real journals. No signs to provide concern that they may be frauds… but note that this says nothing about whether they’re *correct*.
        * Their experimental results track their past predictions quite closely.
        * Successful fusion requires a “large-enough” product of plasma density x temperature x confinement time. Using this as a figure of merit, they’re between 10x and 100x ahead of the competition.
        * They’re shooting for proton-boron fusion, which produces essentially zero radioactive waste. (But see below)
        * They’re only a few million $$ from either conclusive success or failure.

        Some things that make them a long shot:
        * Extreme engineering challenges to resolve between current status and success
        * A shoestring budget with which to resolve those challenges
        * A very small team working on the project.
        * A theory that remains unproven (but also unrefuted). It may turn out to be correct, and it may be utterly wrong — it’s too soon to tell.
        * They’re shooting for proton-boron fusion, which is about 2 orders of magnitude more difficult than ordinary hydrogen fusion. This is a substantial challenge which they may be unable to overcome.

        Over all they seem to me to be an extremely risky bet, with a huuuuuuge payoff in the unlikely event of success. Certificated investors only, YMMV, etc.

        In the interest of disclosure: I made a small investment based on the risk-reward evaluation, mentally considering it to be a donation to the future of plasma physics rather than an actual investment. I’d love to be proven wrong, of course.

    • “We can’t even find a way to get rid of fission waste products from reactors.”

      Because ‘bury it in the ground in a stable area a long way from people’ is apparently too much like hard work.

      As for steam, I asked that question when I toured an experimental fusion reactor thirty years ago. They were convinced it would be more efficient than trying to pull energy directly from the plasma.

      I’m guessing the engineers I met there have retired by now, after spending their entire lives not building working fusion reactors. Good work if you can get it.

    • Dr Hirsch mentions alternative configurations to achieve fusion, including Lawrenceville Plasma Fusion (LPP Fusion). This is a small operation that has hit several key milestones for sustained fusion reactions with the company’s FF-1 reactor. The sesign directly generates electricity without boilers and turbines, and is aneutronic to boot, (ie, radiation free)

      Here’s how the reactor works:

      The website is definitely worth a visit:

    • Great link. Thank you Nicholas. BTW, Freeman Dyson also is dubious about Tokamaks

      Dyson: I am not an expert on plasma physics. I know only that plasma physics is very difficult and poorly understood. In my opinion the governments of the world, not only the USA, made a wrong choice about forty years ago when they stopped exploring the science of fusion with small-scale experiments and put their money into high engineering projects. The big engineering projects such as ITER are absurdly expensive and can never lead to economic fusion power. I agree with your opinions about this. I consider the funding to be misplaced. The only hope of economically useful fusion power is a radically different design which might emerge from better understanding of the basic science of plasma physics.

  12. As I understand it a fast neutron and a couple of smaller particles are emitted after each fusion takes place.
    Don’t neutrons induce radioactivity in other atoms they collide with? In order to ‘work’ (as in physics) won’t the reactor inevitably produce radioactive waste?

    • Yes and no. Neutron generators use nuclear fusion to produce the neutrons.

      My understanding is by careful selection of the construction materials, you can minimise the radioactive waste. In addition, fast neutron reactors are often proposed as waste “burners”.

      There are also proposals for hybrid reactors, which don’t attempt to hit fusion break even. Instead, in a hybrid reactor, the fusion reaction is used to initiate fission.

    • Not only neutron produce activated radioactive material, they can also make steel less elastic. This is the reason for the limit on lifetime of nuclear fission reactor. (The other parts also age but they can be replaced, just like a 40 years old plane doesn’t have 40 years everything.)

  13. One wonders just how much of theoretical and applied plasma technology research is sequestered under the classified blanket because of the possibility of weaponization. Just saying the navy didn’t just roll out laser anti aircraft weapons on advances in computing hardware only.

    • Re: “laser anti aircraft weapons”
      Classified weapons are probably >20 years ahead of those fielded. Only a short time ago they were flying the 747 around with not very practical chem lasers on board for public demo, then the fielded solid state lasers show up. So who knows whats really out there, UFO propulsion anyone??

      • The chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL) technology used for the YAL-1A airborne laser originated in the early 1980s. It took decades to develop it from a laboratory possibility to an operational system. The ABL successfully engaged a live, boosting ballistic missile.

        The new solid state lasers are very promising, but they are still at the hundred-kilowatt level, which is marginal for tactical applications. And they still have the necessity of discharging about 3x that power level as sheer heat. When I was in the game, the multi-megawatt lasers we were contemplating ran at ~40% quantum efficiency, the highest known then or ever, and we were obliged to bring along very large tankloads of coolant to mitigate the heat developed in the laser when it was operating.

        Oh, and laser beams are stopped cold by clouds or smoke.

        There is nothing new under the sun that you can’t read about it in Aviation Week & Space Technology, years in advance.

  14. Tokamaks and stellarators are only some of the methods of achieving fusion. Others include various forms of fission-fusion hybrids. These seem to show much more promise of viability than the tokamak route.

  15. if you built the reactor inside a vacume that would cut down on some heat loss. I imagine EMR is the real problem though. If only photons were charged we could manipulate their trajectory. I got it! Along with the vacume, house the reaction inside a blackhole. No EMR loss! The vacume may not be needed…

    [The mods recommend assemblying the ideal reactor outside a black hole. Shipping fees will be reduced by simply letting go of the fuel, and letting it fall towards the reactor….

  16. If the ridiculous sums of money America spends on renewables, were diverted to fusion research, America would leap ahead of the competition.

    That is the true tragedy of this climate change nonsense. The obscene mis-allocation of resources. The opportunity cost of the junk science is astronomical, and is putting us far behind the rest of the world.

  17. Is there a different way to achieve fusion? A Canadian company, General Fusion, hopes to create a fusion machine using a large metal sphere, filled with molten lead-lithium that is rotated to form a vertical vortex. On each pulse, magnetically-confined plasma is injected into the vortex. Around the sphere, an array of steam-powered pistons impact and drive a pressure wave into the centre of the sphere, compressing the plasma to fusion conditions. The molten lead-lithium collects the generated heat and is circulated though a heat exchanger to produce steam.


  18. Scrap this line of work. It would take no tome with such resources to perfect Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) which could power everything in the world, create a decentralized power system—no power grid needed—and take people out of the equation as LFTR can be totally automated.

      • Actually, the U.S. operated a Thorium reactor to test feasibility for use in aircraft way back when they toyed with keeping a large aircraft aloft with nuclear weapons around the clock The test reactor was not designed to be installed in an aircraft, but to test feasibility. One account I read said that the development was cancelled because the military was interested in a fast breeder reactor that could produce plutonium for bombs.

      • Ah, no. Instead of posting knee-jerk one-liners, you should think a bit beforehand. Try typing google LFTR. LFTR technology is very real.

      • Utter nonsense. There was no thorium in the Thorium Reactor (sic) at Oak Ridge. Where do you guys get this stuff?

    • Agreed. Nice to see you mention LFTR. It’s a much more attainable means of generating power than fusion. I have never understood why it hasn’t received more attention.

  19. “China has responded with a 100 second sustained fusion burn”

    Where is United States of America, the once Superpower of Technologies?
    We are chopping up and frying birds with blades and mirrors. Thanks to Obama, Democrats, and Greenies, wasting approximate $140 Billion on Global Warming Scam.

  20. ‘Germany, China and India are taking an interest in Fusion, because they know that whoever cracks the fusion problem, will own the world.’

    How? Unless they can make electricity for under 5 cents per kWh, they’ve just got a novelty.

  21. “Greenpeace is strongly critical of nuclear fusion research; they think the money should be spent on renewables”

    Of course Eco Terrorists are against; they don’t want viable solutions or compromises. Its their way or no way.

  22. All the comments on Fusion being 50 years away forever, are obsolescent poppycock.

    People that thirst for Thorium reactors do not recognize that if started today a Fusion power plant will be licensed and produce power to the grid long before a Thorium reactor can be licensed, .

    Any Fission reactor must contain large quantities of radioactive materials that must be carefully kept from the biosphere. Hence a careful and review of design and operations is conducted by the NRC. Please understand that the licensing of the Westinghouse A 1000 is simply an improvement on the PWR reactors from Westinghouse that are built and running today.

    Yet it took 30 years to license it for use! A nonexistent Thorium rector, except for conceptual designs, would take as long or longer to license..

    A Fusion reactor has no such restraint, It contains no large quantity or radioactive materials. Yes, some of the materials with which it is constructed can become radioactive, just like a Fission Plant/ But do not include any trans-uranic actinides that endure for thousands of years. like any Fission plant does thorrium, or uranium based or otherwise.

    Fifty years of research has one by one solved almost all the maddening plasma instabilities. We know we have reached the end of the search, as long stable containment measured in seconds reveal no more instabilities to be encountered.

    Iter is now more an engineering prototype than a scientific experiment. What it was meant to discover has been partially achieved piecemeal, here and there and elsewhere; But only Iter beings it all together. With Iter designs harkening back to the ’90s, if begun fresh today, would be half or a third the size, simply due to improved magnets.

    Indeed the successor to Iter is talked of being designed, beginning next year and is fully planned to to provide power to the grid. It may take a decade or more to build, (so does any other substantial power plant) but that is far different than wondering if Fusion can be made to work at all.

    Fusion is almost here, and too many don’t recognize that fact… YET.

    • If the actinides “endure for thousands of years,” they are by definition no worse than the source uranium in the first place. Very low activity and very low threat. Might as well throw them into the sea, considering the vast quantities of radioactive elements already in seawater.

    • If fresh designs begun today would be a third of the size, why the hell are they building ITER, instead of the newer one third size design.

      As far as I know, all that they have ” built ” of ITER is to pour a whole bunch of concrete.

      We’ve been pouring concrete for hundreds; maybe thousands of years.

      If I were funding ITER, in any fashion, I would build the damn machine first, and get it running. Then if it starts to look like it is going to need a big concrete containment vessel, it would be time to pour concrete.

      It’s a totally bass ackwards project.


      Pouring concrete before you have proved the science works, is just insanity.

      NOBODY has got the science to work yet.

  23. Problem with fusion, speaking as a nuclear engineering grad, is that the current tritium-deutirium reactions produce neutron that are way too fast (hard to convert into heat) and you have to manufacture and handle the dangerous tritium. Helium3+Helium³ reactions are safer but at a much higher temperature, and you have to go to the moon for the He3!
    Sanity, engineering and $ dictate developing the molten salt liquid core thorium fission reactors. Higher efficiency, inherently safer (gets too hot – melts plug, and core drains into cooling tank), can use old spent uranium fuel or all the thorium produced as toxic waste from the production of rare earth metals that go into high efficiency electric motors, generators, etc. Thorium won’t have to be mined.

    And a working prototype was made back in the 60’s!!!

    • I believe that DT fusion produces a fast neutron, and is the lowest ignition threshold process. DD fusion is not supposed to produce neutrons, but is a much higher ignition threshold.

      But that puzzles me. When I was back at U of A we used a 600 KV Cockroft Walton accelerator to fire deuterons, at a heavy ice target, frozen onto a rotating copper heat sink.

      That resulted somehow, in making 14 MeV neutrons, which were used in polarization studies, and I think 14 MeV protons were made as well.

      I built a Stilbene crystal scintillation detector for the neutrons. Other students were using proportional gas counters that were very inefficient neutron detectors, so the accelerator had to run (reliably) for days to get any kind of statistics at all. But those proportional counters (Geiger counters sub avalanche threshold) were completely insensitive to beta or gamma rays.
      My Stilbene crystal was very efficient for neutrons; maybe 10^4 or 10^5 higher than the gas counters, but was also an efficient beta and gamma ray detector.

      My project was to electronically discriminate between alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron radiation. I could count any of them, and reject all of the others, so I could just turn a knob and select the radiation species at will. So the accelerator runs could be very short, and that contraption was hard to maintain. (I was one of the maintenance technicians also).

      We used to use a Polonium Beryllium neutron source to calibrate the detectors, but it produced about 10^4 gammas per neutron. We couldn’t get approval to have a plutonium beryllium neutron source, so ours died about every 200 days or so. The gas counter chaps, didn’t know about all the gammas, so they sometimes put the neutron source in their pockets, to carry it from place to place. Once my stilbene crystal showed them the veritable avalanche of gammas, they stopped carrying that little lead pot in their pockets.

      So I don’t quite understand, where we got the 14 MeV neutrons from in that D-D collision, but we did.


  24. It seems many people don’t have a good idea of what is going on at ITER. The reason it progresses so slowly is because all nations involved want to be able to build all parts themselves, and hence contribute pieces for ‘everything’, because once ITER should work, they wanna be able to replicate the technology at home. So as ITER progresses, it should not be a surprise to anyone that participating nations OF COURSE are doing their own thing in parallel back home… btw, since you last reported on Germany, they have progressed to hydrogen plasma as well.

  25. The reason there are 35 countries contributing to ITER , the US a founding member, is that the countries want to be in on the monopoly once fusion becomes commercial. IMO the great number of countries contributes to the bureaucracy that creates lengthening of the program dates. Too many cooks spoil the broth :(.

  26. At least with regards to the German “Wendelstein-7” this is definitely *not* a “competition”:

    I know nothing about the Chinese, Indian or Japanese efforts (quite franktly that would the task of the media who report this nonsense), but I seriously doubt that these rival ITER. While ITER is *not* a power plant, it is my impression it will be the closest thing to a *tokamak* power plant for at least a decade that we will have on this planet.

    It is my impression that all these tokamak machines build in “competition” to ITER will surely produce lots of PHDs and maybe some interesting (or even helpful) science, but a rival to ITER they are not. (After all, ITER is so freaking complex and expensive, it is highly doubtful that a single nation – not even a larger one – would build a rival tokamak at this stage of research).

  27. …By ignoring fusion, or at least not treating it as seriously as other countries, America is at risk of losing her competitive advantage, for decades to come….

    Speaking from an ‘other countries’ perspective, The USA lost its competitive advantage years ago – probably in the 1950s or 1960s. Since then it has had a ‘monopoly advantage’ – its size and the dollar position as a reserve currency have made it ‘too big to be allowed to fail’. I shouldn’t worry about the fact that other countries are developing new technologies – the US has always imported its innovation and then concealed this from the local population with its ‘not invented here’ attitude. I don’t suppose this will be any different….

  28. Storm the stockades of secrecy and retrieve the research and experiments of Tesla and the worlds problems of electricity generation without pollution are solved. A few others have come after him and also been silenced. Sad.

  29. I’m trying to get this into a modern-world context. We generate electricity (AC) by the method first devised by Faraday around nearly 200 years ago, of moving a coil of wires through a magnetic field. We then created steam turbines to do this on a grand scale. Yet here we are in a fusion age still looking at creating AC from the same process: creating steam from heat to drive generators. Have we not moved on in science since Faraday? Is electromagnetism still the only way to get reliable power? (I don’t count PV DC arrays)

    • The most efficient way to transmit power over long distances is 3-phase AC. I am confident Faraday didn’t know this in his day. It’s why AC won the AC/DC transmission battle!

      • Well, no. Most efficient method of long distance transmission is DC. This is precisely why all the most modern long distance transmission systems in Canada (Manitoba and Quebec) use HVDC. A similar DC system, including several submarine links, is intended for the new Labrador hydraulic development of the lower Churchill River to connect through the island of Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.

        With DC, line losses are greatly reduced. The disadvantage of DC is that it cannot be transformed. Thus AC-DC converters are required at line transformer stations.

      • An analog of AC is a piston motor which has zero force twice in each turn. AC is an inefficient use of the resistance of the medium.

        DC can tension can be raised or lowered, just not with two simple fixed electromagnets.

      • But the thing is (bearing in mind I’m an old electronics man with AC theory), I can appreciate the advantage of 3 Phase, but I’m surprised that in two hundred years we are no further fwd than what Faraday defined as a way of generating it. Fusion is yet another big boiler and I can’t believe that Faraday invented the last ever (and only) means of AC power generation, bearing in mind it had never been done before.

      • Re cgi and simple…..
        AC is used for most electrical distribution because transformers won’t work on DC. High voltages are used on long-haul transmission lines to minimize power loss (which is proportional to current squared) while lower voltages are used at the end use points for safety. Also, for all but the smallest electrical motors, AC motors are simpler (no commutation required) and more efficient.

        DC is used for very long-haul transmission lines for efficiency reasons (usually with superconducting lines these days), even though they require very elaborate step-up and step-down stations. These are too expensive to use for most purposes, however.

      • “Also, for all but the smallest electrical motors, AC motors are simpler (no commutation required) and more efficient.”

        So you are saying AC motors have only advantages for every purposes (except toys motors)?

        Then why did the first series of TGV (train grande vitesse) used a DC motor?

      • “simple-touriste

        February 7, 2016 at 5:47 am”

        Well, my electrical tutors, study and qualifications must have all been wrong for “Y” and “Delta” configured systems (UK 415v/ac 63amp). Now, I did say transmission. Your alternator in your car is 110v/ac, 3 phase “Y”, rectified to 12v/dc. No more dynos! In the UK the ground level 3rd rail supply in the rail network is typically 600, 750, 1200 etc v/dc, which requires substations at regular intervals. The UK overhead pantograph system is 15k or 25k v/ac (There is some DC) with locomotives using 3 phase AC induction motors. DC has it’s place (And in fact one industry I worked in replaced AC cooling fans with DC in their machines), but AC is king for long distance transmission. That’s why it is in use all over the world.

      • AC transmission lines are radio antennas, with a wavelength of 5,000 or 6,000 km. So even with twisting, the long haul lines radiate energy. HVDC transmission lines can be in the megavolt range I believe. Dunno how they convert it to usable voltages.


      • Basically, the conversion stations have really, really big inverters that use solid-state devices to generate AC from DC (or vice-versa). (really, really, really big.

        Yes transmission lines are antennae, thus the problems with EMP and solar flares. However you don’t have to worry too much about transmitting energy: at 60 Hz a half-wave antenna (what you need to be efficient) needs to be 2500 km long.

    • The Dense Plasma Focus design directly generates electricity from the reactor by-passing turbines. See

      • Thanks Phil for adding that link that George requested. Electric energy is directly generated by the FF-1 device. The process starts with high energy ion beams that the reactor creates in attaining fusion.

        “The ion beam of charged particles is directed into a decelerator which acts like a particle accelerator in reverse. Instead of using electricity to accelerate charged particles, they decelerate charged particles and generate electricity. Some of this electricity is recycled to power the next fusion pulse while the excess (net) energy is the electricity produced by the fusion power plant. Some of the X-ray energy produced by the plasmoid can also be directly converted to electricity through the photoelectric effect (like solar panels).”

      • AC motors generate a rotating magnetic field, with special advantages for three phase (in large enough sizes). The torque generated is a consequence of the slip frequency, between the field rotation rate, and the mechanical RPM. So synchronous motors have some special problems, because there is no slip.

        DC motors, particularly series motors, generate their maximum torque when the rotor is stalled, which is why they are good for transportation systems. They love to start up from zero RPM. AC motors are finicky to start from zero under full load.

        And my car’s alternator doesn’t generate any 110 V AC.


      • I think I did say the wavelength was 5000 or 6000 km. !/2 wave dipoles are very efficient radiators. You don’t need an efficient radiator to lose a significant amount of power. Short wire antennas << 1/2 wave still radiate, they just look capacitative rather than resistive. The USA (or Siberia) is a pretty big place.


      • “george e. smith

        February 8, 2016 at 10:45 am”

        Yes it does. It’s one reason why it’s called an alternator.

  30. How much energy did they have to put in to get the 100 second fusion? More or less than the fusion produced?

    • If energy input was less than fusion produced that would be the big headline, not the duration of the burn. A 100 second burn doesn’t amount to much for a power plant unless it can get power gain.

  31. David A
    February 7, 2016 at 4:52 am

    “I am of the view that surrounding the fusion reaction with a layer of 100 percent CO2 will easily maintain the heat and sustain the reaction. (An IPCC model told me so)”

    This is what is wonderful about WUWT with all the bright visitors it gets. I think David A has inadvertently come up with an important piece of the fusion puzzle. All fusion efforts have focused on the core of the technology with apparently no thought to other more mundane things that could make the difference. I don’t know about CO2 as a surround, but certainly an IR ‘reflector’ to bounce the fugitive heat back into the magnetic bottle seems like a brilliant idea.

    • Why an IR reflector ?? The peak EM radiation wavelengths are in the x-ray gamma ray region, not IR.


  32. Manmade CO2 being the breakthrough leap needed for a working fusion reactor is so ironic, it has to be true.

  33. The article says; “Germany, China and India are taking an interest in Fusion, because they know that whoever cracks the fusion problem, will own the world.”

    I beg to differ. It looks like Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) is further along. Industrial Heat has built a commercial 1 MW LENR plant that has been supplying steam to a real customer for eleven months. The results of the one year trial should be available soon.
    Obviously cheap. safe. pollution free LENR has many advantages over fusion and is fully scalable.. See Mats Lewan’s webinar. .

  34. America has squandered many billions on pie-in-the-sky nuclear fusion R&D over the past 40 years with little to show for it.

  35. A fusion effort I’ve been following for years is the Polywell fusor, a product of Energy Matter Conversion Corporation out of San Diego. They recently proved the ability to confine a high beta plasma. To understand what that means, beta is the ratio of plasma pressure opposing the confining magnetic field pressure. In the ITER Tokamac, the highest beta achieved is 0.03, in a Polywell it can run as high as almost 1.0.

  36. I don’t know…….whenever I read these articles (and now especially the PC ones that include India and China – have the writers ever visited these places I wonder), De Gaulle’s comment about Brazil come to mind.

    Fusion power is the future and it always will be.

  37. Smoke is coming out of my BS meter again. We do not need a limitless supply of energy. We need a finite supply of energy. Which we happen to have.

    The sky is not falling

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