The bright light of nuclear fusion might burn away climate doomsters’ fears

Artist rendering of a fusion reaction.

By Larry Kummer. From the Fabius Maximus website.

Summary: News from the frontiers of science, where the future is being built and the predictions of doomsters will be defeated. Also, see the last section: why has fusion always been 30 years away? And naming the people responsible for this failure.

“We think we have the science, speed and scale to put carbon-free fusion power on the grid in 15 years.”
— Robert Mumgaard, CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems (PhD in Nuclear Physics, MIT). Source: The Guardian, March 2018.

One of the great oddities of our time is the widespread belief that our CO2 emissions will destroy the Earth in the 21st century. The thin foundation for these stories is the IPCC’s worst-case scenario, RCP8.5 (often misrepresented as a “business as usual scenario”). In this we burn off most of the Earth’s available oil – then turn to an alternative. In RCP8.5 the fuel of the future is the fuel of the 19th century – coal. The result would be catastrophic. It’s also unlikely, and widespread belief it is probability is stunning achievement of modern propaganda.

In the real world, the technology of energy generation and use advances rapidly. Although nuclear power is dying as an industry (destroyed by incompetence), solar tech is taking a growing share of the electric generation market. Steady improvements suggest that it has a big future (although less than dreamers believe).

To see how quickly tech can advance, a decade ago electric cars were considered a technology for the distant future. A 2009 report by the National Academies of Science said that even plug-in hybrids “are unlikely to have much impact before 2030.” We have already leaped over that stage, with many of the world’s major car companies now offering all-electric cars (~1% of the market) – and the others rolling them out in the next five years. The report did not even mention them.

The private sector sees profits in fusion power

The US government fusion program was funded since 1976 at levels far below that required to deliver results at at some indefinite date (“far out in time”; see the last section below). But decades of work have brought fusion to an important milestone. The growing interest of private investors – especially professional venture capitalists – marks the start of a new phase in the development of fusion power. These are smart business people expecting results soon, and putting money on the table. This is an update of a list that I have shown before.

One mega-corp is investing in fusion: Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works began building a compact fusion system in 2010. See their website and the Wikipedia entry. From their October 2014 press release

“{Lockheed} is working on a new compact fusion reactor (CFR) that can be developed and deployed in as little as ten years. …The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year. After completing several of these design-build-test cycles, the team anticipates being able to produce a prototype in five years.”

Most of these companies issue exciting press releases and videos about breakthroughs and timetables. Most are falling behind on their initial promises. The sums spent are small, as such things go. But most new evolves slowly at first. We can only guess at what they might accomplish in the next decade.

This is one facet of a large story, one of the biggest of our era: a new industrial revolution has begun!

Great things come from small beginnings. See Niagara Falls in 1904, with little factories tapping some of its power.

Niagara Falls in 1904

Here is the “Z Machine” of Sandia National Laboratory. It could provide fusion energy for the future. See Science, Nov 2016.

Sandia - z_machine
By Randy Montoya.

For More Information

Another often-told story about natural resources is about the replacement of whale oil by petroleum. The reality was much more complex, with no obvious lessons for us. See an analysis by Bill Kovarik, Professor of Communication at Radford University; also see the discussion in the comments.

Why has fusion always been 30 years away?

There have been countless articles like this by Nathaniel Scharping in Discover March 2016, asking “Why Nuclear Fusion Is Always 30 Years Away.” Sometimes other numbers are given, such as “Forever 20 years away: will we ever have a working nuclear fusion reactor?” in the November 2014 New Statesman. Oddly, these seldom quote people in 20 or 30 years ago making such predictions.

But there is a deeper reason why fusion scientists disappointed us: we did not give them the money they said they needed to deliver in 20 or 30 years. See this graph (click to enlarge) from the peak enthusiasm days of fusion. It is from page 12 of “Fusion Power by Magnetic Confinement: Program Plan“, a report by the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (1976), updated to show 2012 dollars. We did not even provide the funding required to deliver future at some indefinite date (“far out in time”). We got what we paid for.

Paths to fusion - by funding

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Joel Snider
September 17, 2018 4:03 pm

‘The bright light of nuclear fusion might burn away climate doomsters’ fears.’

Not a chance – if we literally got rid of all C02 emissions today, we’d have a new alarmist campaign over something else tomorrow – one that would require ALL of the same totalitarian solutions.

My guess is the first thing they’d target would be nuclear energy.

Reply to  Joel Snider
September 17, 2018 4:42 pm

Green activists are already on record saying cheap abundant energy would be terrible for the environment because it would allow other earth resources to be stripped cheaper.

Remo Williams
Reply to  ironargonaut
September 17, 2018 8:34 pm

And I fail to see how they’re wrong in that regard.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Remo Williams
September 18, 2018 2:57 am

If memory serves, scientists have known for many years that one day, Mankind will have to leave this planet to survive, because one day, we will have stripped it of its resources, whatever they may be! That may be many hundreds if not thousands of years in the future, but it will inevitabliy come, & that is why the wealthy intellectual elites want billions to die to put that prospect further away! Still, I won’t need to lose any sleep over it, it’s an issue my great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren will will need to solve, & I am certain, provided they retain freedom & democracy, they will make it just fine! 😉

Reply to  Alan the Brit
September 18, 2018 9:21 am

Can you mention just one resource you think will be depleted, which does not have everlasting renewables as a substitute


Reply to  Alan the Brit
September 18, 2018 1:05 pm

Jan, anything we put the government in charge of.
So I think we should put them in charge of corruption, stupidity and hysteria.
Those are still everlasting renewables, but at least the government monopoly will block us ordinary proles from inexpensive access.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Remo Williams
September 18, 2018 6:34 am

Then you should be in favor of returning to coal fired electricity generation. More coal means more CO2 in the air. CO2 is currently a very limited natural resource. In greater abundance, it will be a boon, a valuable contributor to the health of plants everywhere. And thereby, also a boon to all the animals that eat those plants. On land or in the oceans, more CO2 is a godsend. We will be rebuilding an atmospheric environment that enables the biosphere. In previous eras, that higher CO2 level helped life to thrive.

Reply to  Remo Williams
September 18, 2018 11:34 am

What’s wrong with using the resources available to us?

Unless you want people to suffer?

Reply to  Remo Williams
September 18, 2018 12:11 pm

Remo, while for many it is counterintuitive, just look at the data. The wealthy countries, generally, built with relatively cheap and abundant energy, have the lowest birth rates and in some cases actually shrinking, except for immigration. And today they are recycling, reusing unlike anything seen since the World Wars. These first world countries have some of the strictest environmental protection in history, certainly on today’s planet, including how natural resources are exploited. Meanwhile poorer, so called third world developing countries have high to extreme birth rates (or like China, already huge populations). They are exploiting natural resources at an ever growing rate. Yet when alarmist or the greens in general complain it is almost always about the first world countries. Still almost my entire life the doom and gloom folks claim we are running out of resources, often within a decade or two. Petroleum and natural gas being the usual examples. I lived through Jimmy Carter, based on the predications his experts were giving him we should be out of petroleum and gas.

Kenneth Hunter
Reply to  Remo Williams
September 18, 2018 7:17 pm

Imagine, if you will Remo, an era in which industrialists are allowed to mine the Le Grange points and build refineries for asteroids nudged earthward in their orbits. Imagine further a vast array of mylar solar reflectors feeding clear sunlight to electrical conversion cells and then to Earth as microwaves, then reconverted to electricity and powering the world’s grids.

Good picture? Forget it. Political leaders will never permit the former if only for fear of an asteroid strike. The dangers to political sites and figures from aim-able solar microwave arrays should be obvious as should the reasons for their fears.

Reply to  Remo Williams
September 20, 2018 12:31 am

Remo, point is when they claim what they want is “clean” energy, they are lying. It has nothing to do with “clean” energy and everything to do with control. If a scientific breakthrough came out tomorrow that made solar capable of powering all electric and transportation needs they would fight it . The current crisis gives them the excuse needed to control what, how, and how much of everything is produced. And, control of minute aspects of individuals lives such as you must recycle that bannanna peel. But, they don’t want to argue about control is good/bad. They want to scare you into giving them control to “save the planet”

Richard Bell
Reply to  Remo Williams
September 21, 2018 1:10 pm

The environmentalists are wrong about about the environmental effect of cheaper energy.

The killing fog banks over London of the late 1950s (?) were the sort of environmental degradation that would make a current citizen of Beijing long to take deep breaths of his city’s sickening miasma. Those killer fogs were not brought to an end by environmental activism, but by the simple fact that methane (natural gas) became available at less cost than combustible gases distilled from coal and the same gas piping could transport four times the energy of methane than coal distillates. The use of coal saved the forests of Europe by replacing charcoal in glass making, metals smelting, and (after perfecting the coking process to produce pure carbon lumps that burned even cleaner than charcoal) food processing. The use of oil for lighting, plastics, and lubricating oils left only ambergris as a marketable product that can be harvested from whales, but there is not enough ambergris to justify commercial whaling.

Standard Oil was more effective at ending the whale hunts than Greenpeace could ever hope to be; even though, the only thing Standard Oil did that was directly motivated by the whaling industry was sell kerosene at price that was lower than whale oil, while still making a profit that pleased shareholders. As kerosene was a cleaner burning fuel whale oil, Standard Oil could have sold kerosene for a higher price than whale oil and earn more profit per gallon sold; however, undercutting whale oil allowed Standard Oil to make huge profits by selling huge amounts of kerosene.

Inexpensive electricity allowed for remelting and reforging of steel and iron at a cost competitive with burning coal to smelt iron from its ores. All recycling is limited by the expense of recycling the material compared to the expense of just making more of the stuff. There is only limited recycling of plastics, because of the energy costs of recycling. If energy was cheap enough, the problem of purported floating “continents” of plastic refuse would disappear as they were strip mined to oblivion by the recyclers.

The environmentalist movement is against cheaper energy, because cheaper energy eliminates the need for environmental activism.

Sam Pyeatte
Reply to  ironargonaut
September 17, 2018 8:37 pm

Actually if we had unlimited cheap energy (fusion) we would not have to strip the Earth of resources. We could get our mineral resources from mining asteroids and our own moon.

Reply to  Sam Pyeatte
September 17, 2018 9:58 pm

Mining the moon & asteroids will mean bring mass to the Earth theus unleashing a series of terrible events such as slowing its rotation, disturbing the earth-moon balance and changing our orbit. There – I just wrote the foundation of the next ECO NUTTER SCARE.

Reply to  jim karlock
September 18, 2018 12:30 am

+1000 to that.

Reply to  jim karlock
September 18, 2018 3:01 am

Wonderful novel with that basis by L. Neil Smith – “Ceres”.

honest liberty
Reply to  jim karlock
September 18, 2018 10:38 am

then we can start shipping our landfills to space to balance it. problem solved.

honest liberty
Reply to  jim karlock
September 18, 2018 10:40 am

my last comment didn’t seem to post.

In response to Jim:
We can then ship our landfill trash and environmental waste on a mission to the sun to burn up naturally and “not pollute the Universe”

perfect solution with abundant, cheap, renewable energy.

Reply to  Sam Pyeatte
September 18, 2018 6:28 am

Wait, stop, you’re destroying the moon. It’s worse than we thought.

Reply to  Sam Pyeatte
September 19, 2018 5:07 am

What does our moon have in the way of ore deposits that the earth doesn’t have already? All things being equal, proximity would be the determining factor.

Without plate tectonics and the associated ore-forming processes that go with it, the moon is woefully lacking in all of the ore deposits found on earth.

If we’re to believe that metal extraction from typical moon rock is somehow advantageous, we already have a bazillion cubic miles of the same stuff on the earth with the added advantage of lower processing costs and closer proximity to the consumer. (Wasn’t the moon once part of the earth, but blasted away before several billions of years of plate tectonics-induced differentiation?)

Cheap energy is never going to offset the other operational considerations of moon mining; besides, if nuclear fusion is the key to unlocking the mineral resources of the moon, it should be equally if not more available and cost effective here on Earth.

Hence moon mining makes no sense although targeting particular types of asteroids might make sense assuming the technology can be applied in a cost-conscience approach. However, even if precious metal prices of asteroid production approached record lows at the production facility, simply getting the stuff to market (Earth) would likely make it all prohibitively expensive.

Reply to  RockyRoad
September 19, 2018 7:13 am

Helium 3 is more abundant on the moon. National security uses as a neutron detector.
Other moon resources that can be used on the moon or deep space can in the far future can then be mined on the moon.

Reply to  ironargonaut
September 18, 2018 1:41 am

Their real object is a return to some mythic golden past of a rural ideal, to that end the whole energy-modernity elements is something they object to on first principles.
There is no energy source they would accept if it was cheap and easily available , renewables inability to support a modern society is in fact what they consider its good point to be.

Weylan McAnally
Reply to  knr
September 18, 2018 10:45 am

No, they want to keep THEIR modern technology and all of the things that entails. They want everyone else to return to the mythic golden past of a rural ideal.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Joel Snider
September 17, 2018 4:51 pm

“My guess is the first thing they’d target would be nuclear energy.”

Probably correct. No matter what the topic at hand seems to be there is always one person trying to claim (without offering explanation) that over 400 nuclear reactors are going to one day blow up and destroy the world.

Benjamin Wade
Reply to  Craig from Oz
September 17, 2018 5:56 pm

Exactly. It’s not like Fukushima or Chernobyl ever happened.

Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 17, 2018 6:33 pm

Neither of which destroyed the world or caused significant loss of life. I posit fukashima wouldn’t have released as much radiation if they had trusted their models and let them melt down instead of pumping sea water into the reactors.

Eric Doll
Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 17, 2018 6:41 pm

What “ever” happened at Fukushima? Some low level radiation went out to sea; no expectation of detectable health concerns.
The tally:
tsunami 50,000 deaths Government ordered evacuation 1600 deaths Nuclear Power Plant 0 deaths

Reply to  Eric Doll
September 17, 2018 11:10 pm

Technically, there were four deaths at Fukushima…

crush injuries and drowning from the tsunami.

Reply to  Eric Doll
September 18, 2018 7:25 am

Well, not immediately no deaths. It takes 3 generations. So it’s hard to tell. People move and others take their place. However, without that, it’s total. The overall statistical rate appears lowers because it gets mixed in with a larger population.
The first generation there is a slight increase in deaths. Most live to their life expectancy. The second generation, there are noticeably a lot more and fewer live to their life expectancy. The third generation, nearly if nor all the children are affected. It’s total.

Reply to  Eric Doll
September 18, 2018 11:37 am

rishrac, that’s nonsense.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 17, 2018 6:49 pm

Just out of curiousity Benjamin, do you know the death toll from Chernobyl and Fukushima?

Reply to  Rich Davis
September 17, 2018 9:07 pm

While Benjamin ponders that, here is my answer to question 1:
I think the most authoritative source is the UN report from 2008, which is here:

According to that document there were:
• 28 deaths resulting from Chernobyl radiation (Page 64)
• 15 from thyroid cancer over the ensuing years (Page 65)
• 4 deaths from a helicopter crash
• 2 from the explosion
Total is 43 deaths related to the fact that this was a nuclear plant. Certainly too many deaths, but arguably not abnormally large as disasters go.
Let’s avoid a repeat!

Reply to  Rich Davis
September 18, 2018 11:40 am

Chernobyl was a design that was rejected in the west as being too unstable.
It was used by the former Soviets because it was cheap.
Too save money, they also didn’t build a containment dome.
Finally, they were conducting a test to see how close to the critical region they could get the reactor without losing control. They got too close and lost control. Since they had disabled most of the safeties in order to conduct the test, there was no way to regain control.

No reactor of that design has been built since Chernobyl. (Not that there were many prior.)

Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 17, 2018 6:56 pm

I’m willing to bet that Benjamin doesn’t know a thing about how either accident happened, or any of the actual details regarding events post accident.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we never hear from Benjamin again, now that he has schooled us.

Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 18, 2018 12:10 am

The RBMK Reactor used at Chernobyl and many other Soviet nuclear power stations had several design faults that not even the operators at the plant we made aware of. The ‘safety’ test they were performing set up the perfect storm and hence the explosion.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 18, 2018 3:04 am

Firstly, Chernobyl happened due to a failure of communism, a poorly maintained reactor, a poorly designed reactor, badly detailed in almost every respect, coupled with the arrogance of superiority that communism creates!
Secondy, Fukushima’s reactors didn’t “fail”. What happened was that the power failed, with the tsunami wave, that took out the back-up generators designed to keep the coolant water circulating, which in turn, had they been located well above ground a mere 10-15 feet or so, all would have been fine, the system would have worked!

James Beaver
Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 18, 2018 8:10 am

Both Fukushima and Chernobyl reactors should never have been used for commercial power production. Boiling water reactors are inherently unsafe because they require robust power supplies to the coolant pumps. Loose power and the core will eventually become uncovered, resulting in melting of the core elements. Modern fission reactor designs can fail-safe, even if all power is lost.

Reply to  James Beaver
September 18, 2018 10:02 am

Depending on the reactor design, BWR can be made inherently safe on loss of cooling. Believe it or not they are out there and actively being used.

The real issue is places are building few or no new reactors using the latest and greatest in design and technology. They are limping along on extended operating licenses without upgrades (some upgrades are not possible). Take Fukushima as an example, when it was built scientist did not think they would get a large tsunami at that location and the diesel generators were placed appropriately. By the time of their last license extension scientist knew tsunami’s there could produce much bigger waves than previously thought but site was not tasked with raising their generators to prevent getting swamped as a condition of their license extension. If they had, no one outside of Japan would know that reactor even existed.

Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 18, 2018 8:19 am

Ah oh. Triggered an anti-nuclear troll with “radiation”/”nuclear”/”fusion”.

D. Anderson
Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 18, 2018 9:21 am

It’s not like nuclear designs have made some progress since the 1960s.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Benjamin Wade
September 18, 2018 10:26 am

Keep in mind that the greatest “nuclear disasters” were at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. See:
Including a quote from geneticist Bertrand Jordan: “It is commonly believed that the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have a high cancer burden, a significantly shortened lifespan, and children with high rates of mutations and abnormalities. After a careful examination of the data, the author found this to be an incorrect assumption.”
If this is true for Hiroshima, how can it be a serious issue for Fukushima?

Reply to  Joel Snider
September 17, 2018 6:56 pm

Controlled fusion is but a dream. Not even money can solve it….

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Sam
September 17, 2018 10:17 pm


Bob Jarrett
Reply to  Sam
September 18, 2018 3:18 am

Fusion power is real…it provides most of rhetoric earth’s energy right now. Unfortunately the reactor is 93 million miles away.
Duplicating the sun on a human scale is the technical challenge. A thermonuclear explosion achieves the conditions for a fraction of a second, but the energy is released in a horribly uncontrolled fashion.
Miniature implosions using high energy lasers proved technically feasible but only affordable in one’s dreams.
Magnetic confinement likewise is conceivably feasible but again the facility costs are mind altering.
Since working on Tokamak technology that was 20 years away, I’ve watched two generations with that expectation. I hope to live to see the day when I am wrong.

Tom Halla
September 17, 2018 4:06 pm

Fusion would be nice to have, but we do have working fission now, if only the green blob if forced out of the way.

September 17, 2018 4:15 pm

Steady improvements suggest that it [solar tech] has a big future (although less than dreamers believe).
comment image

To see how quickly tech can advance, a decade ago electric cars were considered a technology for the distant future…
comment image

Reply to  Khwarizmi
September 17, 2018 4:44 pm

The so called improvements in solar power have been small and incremental. Regardless, the biggest problem with solar is storage, and there is no technology, even on the horizon that can solve that problem.

There have been no break throughs in electric cars. They are still a technology for the distant future.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 5:07 pm

Solar thermal solves the storage problem.
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 5:51 pm

Solar thermal only solves it for a few hours.
The problem is that if you actually do use the heat stored in the salts, then you need to use natural gas to prevent the salts from cooling down too much and solidifying.

The only form of solar thermal that works is a southern facing wall in cold climates.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 6:02 pm

“only solves it for a few hours”
Gemasolar solved it for all night back in 2011:
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 6:06 pm

“only solves it for a few hours” Gemasolar solved it for all night long in 2011:
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 6:32 pm

Dave Burton
(from the quoted link)

As the company explained, Gemasolar had only been operating commercially for one month prior to its 24-hour run.

Read more at:

Hmmmn. One day reported. Only one day! For the first time ever!
And that report was for the single week in the middle of the summer, occuring (coincedentaly!) immediately after the two weeks in the summer that has the absolute maximum sunshine of the entire year.
In the “clear weather” season of Spain’s classic Mediterranean climate” of months of clear weather, which will be followed by months of storms and and clouds.
And this for the most southern country in Europe with the absolute best-possible solar loading!

And you claim this one day, in the clearest month of the year, in the one month of the year with the maximum sunshine, in the most favorable country in all of Europe for solar insolation … This ONE DAY means we can generate 24×365 solar power world wide now?

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 6:59 pm

Over night, is just a few hours. The article also is quite careful to not mention precisely how much energy was produced overnight.
Will the system be able to produce overnight, if it was cloudy during the previous day?
What happens when it’s cloudy several days in a row.
There was no mention what time of year this miraculous event happened. Who wants to be it was pretty close to the longest day of the year. Will the system still make it through the night during the winter?

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 7:15 pm

The point RACook & MarkW is that the technology works. Scaling it up with larger tanks is easy. Both of you should know how a new technology work?……The Wright brothers weren’t at the stage of transatlantic flight when they first took off at Kitty Hawk. In time when the engineering kinks are ironed out, these plants will be baseload capable.
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 7:55 pm

Scaling it up with larger tanks is easy.

Scaling it up with larger tanks is easy impossible at any other location at any other day of the year. There is NO OTHER location in Europe that gets more sunlight in 24 hours than southern Spain, in the last week in June.

Writing Observer
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 7:29 pm

If you absolutely MUST have molten salt in your power plant design (with all of the engineering problems that it presents), there are far more efficient ways to melt them.

Ways that don’t burn thousands of birds out of the sky. Ways that don’t blind airplane pilots. Ways that don’t destroy thousands of acres of desert ecosystem that require (at a minimum) a century to recover after the twenty to thirty year lifetime of your power plant.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 7:40 pm

“there are far more efficient ways to melt them.”

Name one and tell us all how it is more “efficient?”

PS, got a link to the pilot that went blind?
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 7:47 pm

It doesn’t take much to impress Dave.
A pilot plant, sort of works, under very special [conditions].
From this he’s convinced that all that is needed is scaling up, and it’s ready to take on the world.

The problems that have been pointed out to him are completely ignored in his desperate desire to believe.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 7:54 pm

It doesn’t take much to show how uninformed MarkW is:
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 8:06 pm

RACook, “scaling it up” involves two things. First the area of heliostats. More of them collects more thermal energy. Second, building larger tanks allows you to store more thermal energy. In fact you can build a solarium on the south side of a house with a lot of masonry to “store” the thermal energy. Doesn’t require the house to be in Spain.
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 8:35 pm

Deliberate distraction. You began by claiming that your reference showed that a solar power plant (starting by the valid criticisms of the very real failures at Ivanpah in CA’s formerly clean high desert wildlife refuges) could work overnight without burning natural gas to keep the molten salts from solidifying overnight until the sun next came up and began reheating the freezing salt mass again. That one solar plant in southern Spain in mid-summer did keep its molten salt mass near-liquid all night (did it continue to generate power through the night, or merely keep the molten salt from re-freezing?) proves NOTHING of the usefulness of lower-energy passive solar systems in SOME LOCATIONS DURING SOME of the year! For example, more than half of the US cannot use passive solar, since that simplified technology (sun-lit masses indoors in the living spaces) increases air conditioning loads, and is incompatible with existing house designs. is it energy “efficient” o rebuild 1/2 of the housing in the US to make you “feel better”? And not change Global Average Temperatures one 1/10,000 of one degree?

Passive solar can be useful. In some places. Some of the time. For certain limited applications. Use it where appropriate, where it will be economical. Do not force its use. Do not subsidize its use: If passive solar saves more money than it costs, use it.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 8:56 pm

RACook, you need to learn how to read. Ivanpah doesn’t store thermal energy. Check out Crescent Dunes instead. Next, the plant in Spain generated power for 24 hours. What all this proves is that solar thermal works. Period. There are many plants in operation as the link I provided shows. Some have storage, some don’t. Now, what you need to do is learn that the use of CSP along with storage allows the plant to operate after the sun sets. The technology works, and it’s a matter of scaling. You must not be familiar with new technology. If you were, you’d recognize that there is a steep learning curve associated with it, and bugs in the designs that need to be rooted out. Your fear of new technology is apparent. Get over it.
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 9:01 pm

LOL @ RACook ” increases air conditioning loads”
It doesn’t take an engineer to solve that issue…..I believe they call them “shades” or “blinds.” What you do is you stop the sunlight from entering the room in summer

[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 9:29 pm

Do you now?
And just where do you put those magic shades you suddenly require?
If inside the window, the heat is already in the room.
If outside the window, you create what we in the south call “an awning” and it is subject to the winds, squirrels, bugs, pollen, dirt, mold, mildew, hail and storm damage …

Reply to  MarkW
September 18, 2018 6:36 am

Check out the next project by the company which built Gemasolar, the 150 MW Noor III CSP plant in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Part of the total 510 MW Noor Solar Complex, it has 7.5 hours of storage. Very impressive. From the article:
“Economy of scale was one factor,” he said. “For example if you go from Gemasolar – which is a 20 MW turbine and 120 MW thermal receiver – and you go from this size to Noor III, which has a receiver of approximately 600 MW thermal – five times bigger than Gemasolar – you can decrease the cost of the electricity by approximately 40%.”

Reply to  MarkW
September 18, 2018 9:09 am

Dave Burton, one can never get past the basic physical fact that solar is a low-density energy source like wind (at the opposite end, fossil-fuels are high & nuclear is VERY high). MarkW is right that the most reliable way to use/store solar is w/sun-facing, high-thermal-inertia walls on buildings (and add an overhang to shade it in the high sun-angle season). At least for areas w/a cold season.

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 5:59 pm

The US built a solar thermal plant with molten salt heat storage. It is called Ivanpah.
There are a few interesting features of note about the plant.
A) The thermal storage does not work.
B) They use natural gas to make up part of the deficiency. (No kidding, a solar plant that burns fossil fuel. What will they think of next?)
C) It sets birds on fire, right in mid-air as they fly by the tower. the burning birds are called “streamers”.
D) Mirrors misaligned one day and the plant Set Itself On Fire.

The last point is understandable, as the plant was probably attempting to put itself out of it’s own misery.

Here is a background:

Ivanpah has has been covered here at WUWT as well.

Reply to  TonyL
September 17, 2018 6:14 pm

You’d better check back and see current performance at Ivanpah. They’ve worked out a lot of the bugs and are meeting committed production. That’s the sort of problems one has with any new technology when it is scaled up.
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  Dave Burton
September 17, 2018 6:23 pm

… and are meeting committed production.

Meaning, “Oops, we missed out promised electrical delivery kilowatt-hours (again) this month, but are very firmly committed to meeting the next goal you give us. Really. We are committed to meeting the next goal. (Just don’t ask us about the last goal we committed to.)

Reply to  TonyL
September 17, 2018 6:18 pm

Oh yeah, one other thing TonyL, Ivanpah does not store thermal energy for nighttime operation.
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  TonyL
September 17, 2018 6:20 pm

@Dave Burton at September 17, 2018 at 6:14 pm You mean it hasn’t caught fire recently? Yeah, I guess that’s an improvement? It’s meeting it’s contractually obligated production? Why did you not link to a post that proves that? You mean it no longer requires fossil fuels to operate? You mean it has paid off all its debts and improved its efficiency to the point it is no longer the most expensive electricity available? Ummm…? Yeah, I can see why you didn’t link to anything.

Reply to  TonyL
September 17, 2018 6:32 pm

RedViper & RACook:
[This was posted by an impostor, not the real Dave Burton -Mod.]

Reply to  TonyL
September 17, 2018 11:18 pm


Reply to  TonyL
September 18, 2018 12:04 am

Disabling scripts on your browser disables the paywall. Not a well made paywall….

NRG’s Massive California Solar Plant Finally Making Enough Power
By Joe Ryan
February 1, 2017

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in Southern California initially failed to meet contractual obligations, and a yearlong forbearance deal with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. expired Wednesday. After fine-tuning the complex facility that uses 170,000 mirrors, output is up and it’s no longer at risk of defaulting on the deal, according to David Knox, a spokesman for operator and co-owner NRG Energy Inc.

“We are currently in compliance with the contract,” Knox said in an interview. “The generation has improved dramatically.”

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles declined to confirm whether the plant was meeting its obligations, saying that California’s biggest utility is reviewing Ivanpah’s performance.

NRG’s plan from the beginning was to gradually increase output over four years, Knox said. Instead of converting sunlight directly into electricity with photovoltaic panels, the system uses the mirrors to focus sunlight onto boilers atop three 450-foot (137-meter) towers. Those boilers, which are kick-started before sunrise each morning with natural gas, produce steam that drives an electric generator.

It took NRG longer than anticipated, however, to bring the water to just-the-right temperature each morning and position all those mirrors to optimize the power of the sun.

“It took a lot of choreography to get everything just right,’’ Knox said.

It sounds more like a ballet about Goldilocks that a report on a reliable power supply, Dave.

Reply to  TonyL
September 18, 2018 2:42 am

Here is a non-paywalled article (from Forbes) that describes the current absurdity and expensiveness of solar power:
Everywhere that solar/wind is heavily tried (without an assist from cheap natural gas, like Texas did) the electricity prices have gone up dramatically. This is especially tough on the poor. Yes, solar/wind can be part of the solution, but should only be when it does not dramatically raise prices, like California, Germany, Australia, Dakotas, … And it is dishonest not to point this out when discussing renewable “successes”.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 5:32 pm

“They are still a technology for the distant future.”
True enough, but perhaps you are too kind.
They may be a technology for the distant past.
Behold the Edison-Ford electric ~1914.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 8:54 pm

The rub for all these technologies is that breakthroughs are required. Incremental improvements in the technology won’t do it.

Breakthroughs don’t happen on demand, no matter how much money you throw at them. There is a dandy little book, Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned. It should be required reading for policy makers. It shows pretty convincingly why incremental improvements are extremely unlikely to lead to breakthroughs. In fact, it’s probably close to mathematical certainty.

The reason that practical fusion is always thirty years away is that breakthroughs are required and they aren’t happening.

Anyone who thinks that we can have a great national project and develop practical fusion is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Reply to  commieBob
September 18, 2018 6:46 am

Controlled fusion or anything else cannot be allowed to disrupt the plan. To fight the fictitious climate armageddon there must be an overseeing global body. The fear factor is important to drive this initiative and real solutions are not kindly received. Thanks anyway.

Reply to  Tim
September 18, 2018 8:36 am


The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. H.L. Mencken

Since the hobgoblins are imaginary, the efficacy of the proposed solutions is unimportant … except insofar as they don’t cause other problems. Ah, there’s the rub.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 10:20 pm

The biggest problem with solar is that the sun goes down every evening. Storage is a way to mitigate that problem, so is gas turbines. either way the need for two systems makes both unaffordable.

Reply to  Khwarizmi
September 17, 2018 5:32 pm

Well, electric cars have some way to go in order to prove that they can compete with gasoline powered autos. Take away the government subsidies, cost out the replacement of the batteries, etc and then let us see.

Reply to  Khwarizmi
September 17, 2018 5:32 pm

Well, electric cars have some way to go in order to prove that they can compete with gasoline powered autos. Take away the government subsidies, cost out the replacement of the batteries, etc and then let us see.

September 17, 2018 4:16 pm

Too little money stretches out development time. It does not mean that no progress can be made.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2018 7:01 pm

Larry has an unshakable belief in the power of government to solve any problem. Provided they can spend enough money.

Reply to  MarkW
September 18, 2018 3:35 am

WallStreet has an unshakable belief in Gov’t bailouts. Untill Trump puts Glass-Steagal lon the table, that is. With Gov’t balouts out of the way, major league national credit for a crahs program for fusion should do the job quite nicely.
And they will say – how did we ever live without it?

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  MarkW
September 18, 2018 7:20 am

“Although nuclear power is dying as an industry (destroyed by incompetence), solar tech is taking a growing share of the electric generation market. Steady improvements suggest that it has a big future (although less than dreamers believe).”

4 BIG PROBLEMS TO Larry Kummers narrative.

1) He believes in CAGW. This belief in a religion taints all of his logic.
2) The Chinese do not believe that nuclear is dying.
3) So far no one has proved that massive solar can exist without subsidies forever.
4) Nothing new in his article that proves that fusion is not still 30 years away. With that many projects working on it, surely, money is not the problem.

September 17, 2018 4:23 pm

If there was the slightest sign of success in the development of Fusion Energy, the Alarmist would immediately start to claim that Fusion Machines would soon get out of control and consume the whole World is a gigantic Nuclear Fusion Meltdown. Alarmism feeds on our alarm.

Walter Horsting
September 17, 2018 4:28 pm

Check out 20′ 30-ton shipping container 100 MWs good for a city of 200,000. Case for the Good Reactor

Reply to  Walter Horsting
September 18, 2018 11:30 am

I looked at that site and the power-flow diagram doesn’t make sense. No true steam-cycle power plant has COMPRESSORS in the steam-section itself. The steam has to be condensed to a liquid and PUMPED. Liquids cannot be compressed. It might just be a mistake in the diagram, but if so, that’s pretty sloppy….

Reply to  beng135
September 20, 2018 9:01 am

“The steam has to be condensed to a liquid and PUMPED. Liquids cannot be compressed.”

Steam is not a liquid (and, actually, liquids can be compressed, just not easily). It appears to me that the mechanical arm being turned by the turbine (that at the top of the diagram generates electricity) is being used at the bottom of the diagram in two places to compress the steam. I recommend a little light reading on Mechanical Vapor Recompression.

So you have steam turning the turbine. After turning the turbine, the steam has lost energy and typically is run through a condenser where the steam becomes liquid and leftover heat is either wasted or controlled to keep the liquid very near its phase change boundary. Instead, let’s use that steam. It is pressurized enough to keep moving, but not enough to do work. 🙁 It is hot enough to remain in its gaseous form, but not enough for a good heat exchange. 🙁 What if we take that spread out, relatively cool steam and re-compress it? Tada! Useable steam for short bursts of pressure or heat exchange. 🙂 And where do we get the energy for recompression? We steal it from the existing mechanical process running the generator. How much are we stealing (loss of efficiency) vs. how much are we getting from the recompressed steam (increase of efficiency) vs. what other, say, environmental requirements (e.g. minimize expelled steam / industrial heat) does your power plant have to obey?

Max Hugoson
September 17, 2018 4:33 pm

The power source that never was (see the work of Proton 21 in Ukraine), is not, and NEVER WILL BE!

This scam has gone on since 1954, and the “Atoms for Peace”.

There will never be practical power from this source.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Max Hugoson
September 17, 2018 10:27 pm

Never say “never”.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
September 17, 2018 11:22 pm

There MAY never be practical power from fusion.
So far, lots of hints, breakthroughs, just around the corner teases, etc.
No sign that a machine can be made to produce reliable power, or cheap power, or any power, let alone pay back the cost of the research.
Everyone hopes there is a breakthrough, but the notion that any thing that can be imagined can be achieved, is just silly.

Pat Frank
September 17, 2018 4:38 pm

there is a deeper reason why fusion scientists disappointed us: we did not give them the money they said they needed to deliver in 20 or 30 years.

Utter BS. The machine physics for fusion power is plain not there.

Close to $10 billion has been spent for the ITER fusion project already. It it was a money problem, they’d have it going already.

Fusion energy is not like the Apollo moon program, where the science and technology was already in hand, and all that was needed was the engineering research. A difficult problem in itself, but known to be achievable.

Alan Watt, Cliamate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Pat Frank
September 17, 2018 7:20 pm

Thank you Pat for calling BS on that claim.

Reply to  Pat Frank
September 18, 2018 2:55 am

When Apollo was announced, none of the technologies were “on the table”. It was done because it was hard – JFK’s words. The BS emmanating not only from CO2 nuts, but also physicists, has held back civilization for 30 years – that means massive waste. Fusion is hard, but the Sun manages it, as well as the thousands of thermonuclear weapons the neo-cons would just love to test.
The very silicon we blog on here is an Apollo spin-off.
Imagine the fusion spin-offs!
That is why Apollo, unfortunately bean-counter logic here – brought in $14 for every $1 invested.
Fusion will have an even higher (bean-counter) ROI. The real question is was $1 in 1974 the same as in 1962? Of course not – the entiure economy had jumped. Bean-counters have not the faintest glimmer of what that means.
So we need a crash program, a Manhattan Project, to fusion a.s.a.p. No waiting for the PPP (PublicPrivvyPartnership) crazies from Wall Street. That could be part of an RFC (ReconstructionFinanceCorp) like FDR’s program. Use the Hamilton Credit Clause of the Constitution (unique world-wide afaik).
Obama and Bush both pumped $750 billion each into WallStreet after Lehman, and bloggers squabble about $10 billion from the Master’s Table? Serfs or citizens?

Reply to  bonbon
September 18, 2018 3:26 am
Wendelstein 7-X achieves world record for fusion product June 25, 2018
The irony! Germany, where all fission is on the chopping block.

Earl Smith
Reply to  bonbon
September 18, 2018 7:22 am

Just more government lies and concealed facts. The advances in semiconductors that you attribute to NASA was in fact a direct result of the AIR Force and Navy developing the ICBMs. There was over 7 times the money that NASA spent that came from the DoD. Where do you think that all the astronauts got their training. For the most part they were military officers detached for separate duties.

I remember back in ’67 when Motorola released a line of chips with 100 transistors per chip for use in computer design. Our prof whose primary job was as an engineer at TI remarked this was nothing compared to the still classified items that were restricted to military projects.

Reply to  Earl Smith
September 18, 2018 11:50 am

The demand in the private sector for semiconductors was orders of magnitude greater than all government programs put together.

Reply to  bonbon
September 18, 2018 11:02 am

Please identify which of the technologies were not “on th4e table”, or not already at least at Technology Readiness Level 6. Please.

Reply to  bonbon
September 18, 2018 11:48 am

Rockets had been a proven technology for several decades. The only thing left to do was build one big enough for the challenge.

Once again the pro-government bigot has to rant about neo-cons.

The reason for the difference in value of the dollar over time has nothing to do with the economy, it’s because your government decided to print money so that it could buy more votes from people who believe in free lunches.

September 17, 2018 4:58 pm

Kummer missed the real news… which is that the burgeoning private efforts at fusion reactor designs are largely built on alternative physics, not the failed and useless tokamak magnetic confinement model. Otherwise Kummer’s upbeat attitude is justified.

LPPFusion’s experimental reactor for example relies on Dense Plasma Focus physics that generates an aneutronic (no ionizing radiation) in a very compact reactor. Unlike many other companies (such as the Goldman Sachs back TriAlpha Corp) LPPFusion has published results in peer reviewed journals. LPPFusion has hit two of the three marks for fusion and staring in November, will begin firing with design updates and new materials to achieve the final goal of densities needed to achieve new fusion energy.

Explanatory videos here :


Updates at

UC San Diego Collaboration with LPPFusion

Reply to  Sarastro92
September 17, 2018 5:11 pm

Sorry. The video link was corrupted. The explanatory videos can be found con the cover page of

September 17, 2018 4:59 pm

“In RCP8.5 the fuel of the future is the fuel of the 19th century – coal. The result would be catastrophic.“
With the technology currently mandated in the US for scrubbers, the results of returning to coal would be minimal.

“A 2009 report by the National Academies of Science said that even plug-in hybrids “are unlikely to have much impact before 2030.” We have already leaped over that stage, with many of the world’s major car companies now offering all-electric cars (~1% of the market“

Plug in hybrids have only about 1% of market share also. Two percent sales based completely on subsidies is not a leapfrog past “not much impact”, it’s clear evidence of ‘not much impact’.

Hocus Locus
September 17, 2018 4:59 pm

Kirk Sorensen on fusion

“Fusion is hard…” Rewind and watch the whole thing, it’s amazing!

September 17, 2018 5:04 pm

The important news is that the private efforts are built on NEW reactor designs, not the failed tokomak “magnetic confinement model. For example, LPPFusion in Middlesex, NJ has operates an experimental reactor (FF-1) that produces NO radioactive waste (ie aneutronic) .

The FF-1 is an entirely different design called Dense Plasma Focus or Focus Fusion. Very different and quite ingenious design.

The final phase of experimental work with FF-1 is underway. The FF-1 has achieved 2 of three criteria to reach fusion. The energy produced is supercheap (1cent a kWhr)… The Hydrogen- Boron fuel will be loaded later this year once the final design and materials are tested with the first firing shots scheduled for about 1 November..

Great explanatory videos here.


Updates at

UC San Diego Collaboration with LPPFusion

[You are required by site policy to use only one user_id/login_id while commenting. Chose one of the other (Sarastro92 or Posa) and stick with it please, or contact the site_owner off-line and explain the requirements for two id’s. .mod]

Kaiser Derden
September 17, 2018 5:05 pm

To see how quickly tech can advance, a decade ago electric cars were considered a technology for the distant future. wow you wrote that with a straight face ? we’ve had electric cars since around 1900 … in fact they pre-dated ICE autos by years/decades

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Kaiser Derden
September 17, 2018 7:46 pm

Not quite. In the early days there were many different approaches to horseless personal transportation, including steam (Stanley, White, Locomobile), and naptha engines. The electric car came a bit later, out of the desire to make cars less dependent on complicated and sometimes dangerous starting procedures. Henry Ford really tried to produce a practical electric car but it floundered on the battery technology of the day. The development of the electric starter (1912-1920) allowed higher compression engines well beyond the ability of anyone to hand start them (including ladies, which were the target market of early electric cars), and that essentially ended that early quest for the electric car.

At one point I got to ride in a restored 1902 White Steamer — 40 mph on Los Angeles streets with no sides, no seatbelts, and only leather straps around steel drums for brakes on wooden spoke wheels is actually quite terrifying. The White Steamer was produced by the White Sewing Machine company, which gives you an idea of the diversity in early car manufacturers.

There were no standards, no regulations, and no limits to what someone could dream up and offer to the market. Electric was just one more idea in the mix, which could not overcome technical limitations of the time.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 18, 2018 5:40 am

“The development of the electric starter (1912-1920) allowed higher compression engines well beyond the ability of anyone to hand start them”
Sorry not true, there were still Hand Starter Cranks on cars in the 50s/60s, in fact the Citreon 2CV still had provision for one in 1990.
Mind you get it wrong and you could end up with a Sprained or Broken Wrist.

Reply to  Kaiser Derden
September 17, 2018 11:45 pm

Back in around 1948 my Dad bought an electric milkfloat which enabled his employees to commute up the hill from the local village. It was charged up during the day by a diesel generator which provided our off grid needs. Yes EVs can be useful in specific circumstances; but hardly a panacea for universal transport.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
September 17, 2018 5:13 pm

The basic problem with nuclear or solar or wind are the lifetime versus waste generation, pollution, danger to humans, etc. New is shown always as goldmine.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
September 17, 2018 5:53 pm

The problem with storing nuclear waste was solved decades ago. We just don’t have the political will to implement it.

Alan D McIntire
September 17, 2018 5:17 pm

I’ve been reading science fiction stories about nuclear fusion being “just around the corner” since I was 12 years old. I’m now 67, and it’s still “just around the corner”.

Reply to  Alan D McIntire
September 18, 2018 7:57 am

This was my first thought as well. I noted that the author claimed that the researchers just “hadn’t been given enough money” to develop a model in 20 or 30 years. Hey, tell ya what, give me umpty-billion dollars and I’ll produce a working fusion reactor in 30 years, and if I don’t…. well too bad, so sad, guess you shouldn’t have been so trusting.

September 17, 2018 5:18 pm

Fusion power will make no difference to the purveyors of Doom. Globalwarmists don’t about the climate. They don’t actually believe CO2 will destroy the world. If they did, they wouldn’t fly private planes to global warming conferences. They wouldn’t live in 20,000 square foot mansions. They wouldn’t live like royalty. They’d be working hard to reduce everyone’s “carbon footprint”.

Instead, they are focused on redistribution of wealth. Because that’s what it is all about.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Richard
September 17, 2018 6:22 pm

I think folks like Jerry Brown really do believe that CO2 will toast Earth.

It’s just that in their self-righteous fury, they know that their own personal extravagance is justified by the seriousness of their work.

The same self-aggrandizing self-justifying mental dissonance was on display in the Socialist countries behind the late-lamented iron curtain, where party leaders had their caviar, hunting lodges, and island retreats, all justified by the importance of their work salvating the lives of the proletariat.

In sacrificing their lives to the cause, the rewards are all seen as earned.

There’s no limit to self-delusion in the weak-minded when personal advancement is the end result.

Jerry Brown, Tom Steyer, Leo DiCaprio and all the rest share that mind-set. They’re all just too, too important to limit themselves. And too weak-minded to notice.

Robert of Texas
September 17, 2018 5:32 pm

I got news for people, the entire world is already powered by a great-big fusion reactor. Nature stored a slight amount of its output into the ground (kind of like a messy battery) which is what allows us to enjoy life at present.

Electric cars…I have full confidence that a form of Hybrid car will become the car of choice in the next 12 years or so… An all electric car with something like a 100-mile battery range and a small fossil-fueled engine to keep the batteries charged. The little gas engine will need to produce about 80% max power, and can just run at that speed (whatever it is) all the time. When you are traveling and the batteries show a slight discharge it kicks on and handles most of the energy need (including a heater or air conditioner). When you park the car the little engine runs until the batteries are full again. This would give the car a 400 to 500 mile range without stopping. (Note, a little engine produces heat which would lower electrical demands of a heater, but the air conditioner is a real problem…need more efficient ones).

A 100% battery car will never be practical given today’s battery technology, but that can change – its one great invention away. They are just too expensive and short ranged to be useful to an average person. With tons of subsidies, they are very useful to the richer sorts.

Nuclear power – The only thing holding back this industry is some really bad decision making. We need to recycle the waste, not try to bury it all. We need to provide suitable and secure waste storage facilities (like the perfectly good one in Nevada). We need to standardize the reactors to safe, smaller, easy to build repeatedly ones that if power is cutoff, they just stop working, they don’t melt down and explode their containment lids off. Mostly we need the government to stop micro-managing the industry – just write some rules and get out of the way.

Fusion Power – I’ll believe it when I see it… I don’t question they can build a fusion reactor, but getting more energy out of it then goes into it and doing so economically seems like a near impossibility. If it were so straight forward, private industry would have built these 30 years ago. Its going to require numerous breakthroughs, numerous new inventions, and a lot of good luck before one of these is built… Just my Opinion. Meanwhile, investments should go into the nuclear fission industry because we know that works.

Green Power (Wind, Sunlight) – when its all said and done, unless they somehow solve the intermittent power and power density problems, these technologies are resigned to forever be fringe (say 20% or less of the world’s power needs). They desperately need better energy storage solutions to break through this barrier, and I am doubtful they will happen (economically) soon. As long as you need dedicated base power to supplement green energy, it will always be expensive.

One other future prediction – energy needs will start to decrease in advanced societies… As home and building construction continue to improve and older homes are replaced, it will impact the amount of energy each individual requires. Appliances and other electrical hogs will continue to become more efficient. So this notion that we will end up burning large quantity of coal just to survive (in the U.S.) is rather far fetched.

Fred of Greenslopes
Reply to  Robert of Texas
September 17, 2018 9:18 pm

Reply to Robert of Texas: The car you describe is available today, the Nissan ePower. As far as I know, only in Japan. I’m saving up for one when available in OZ.

[Right hand steering, or left hand optional? .mod]

September 17, 2018 6:00 pm

Why is fusion power always 30 years away?? Here’s why in simple language.
To force two atomic nuclei to come together, fuse, and release lots of energy in the process requires that an energy barrier (mostly proton charge) be overcome. Thus the nuclei promoted for fusion (mostly hydrogen (H) in one of its isotopes) must be accelerated to extremely high energy. (This is in contrast to fission, which occurs at room temperature.) The Sun does fuse hydrogen, but its internal temperature is 15 million degrees C. (Temperature is an alternate way to depict velocity of a nucleus.) Imagine containing a H plasma at such temperature continuously, such that continuous power output is achieved, as required for commercial power. No material container (as in fission) can do that. Early attempts used strong magnetic fields to force the plasma into a confined circular path. But at strong confinement and high fluxes, the plasma tended to become unstable. Laser initiation of fusion is being tried. But lasers tend to operate over short time periods, so how can continuous power output be achieved? Yes, other concepts are out there. But even if they are able to produce in the laboratory a power output greater than power input (mostly still an elusive goal), can such be greatly scaled up to the power required for a commercial source?
It’s a tough problem.

September 17, 2018 6:18 pm

Another fusion startup: Innoven Energy LLC

Innoven Energy has a new approach to producing energy through inertial confinement fusion (ICF) that is both environmentally friendly and economically compelling. These two attributes are combined for the first time. Because Innoven’s technology will produce energy at lower cost than any competing source, it offers the potential for very rapid decarbonization of the economy that is driven by favorable economics rather than subsidies and regulations. See patents & applications

R Taylor
September 17, 2018 7:34 pm

Q: How can you tell if someone lacks the integrity to be taken seriously on anything (let alone fusion)?
A: The person promotes it as a cure for the effect of carbon-dioxide on climate.

September 17, 2018 7:50 pm

Cannot be bothered changing the accidental capitals back to normal.
One mega-corp is investing in fusion: Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works began building a compact fusion system in 2010. From their October 2014 press release …
“{Lockheed} is working on a new compact fusion reactor (CFR) that can be developed and deployed in as little as ten years. …The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year”

September 17, 2018 7:55 pm

hmmmm. I took all of the above comments, compressed them to 5E14 Pa at 3E6 K and got…… nothin. just like yukon cornelius.

it is a damn shame how little fusion is funded, versus crap like solyndra

Mark Bishop
September 17, 2018 8:02 pm

The Gov. is Spending 6 Billion on fusion research through colliders like Stanfords.
The timelines are long… 30 years +

Walter Sobchak
September 17, 2018 10:14 pm

“a decade ago electric cars were considered a technology for the distant future”

Electric cars are not, and never have been the technology of the future. They are a historic relic. My great grandmother drove an electric car more than a century ago. So did Mrs. Henry Ford.

The only real difference between those electrics and contemporary ones is the Lithioum Ion battery which is 40 year old technology.

The limitations and problems with electric cars such as limited range and long recharging times are inherent and not fixable.

September 17, 2018 10:51 pm

Artist rendering of a fusion reaction.

There are no bound electrons around in the temperature required.

September 17, 2018 11:43 pm

Since when are technological breakthroughs linked solely to federal funding? That’s nonsense.

Leo Smith
September 17, 2018 11:54 pm

Nuclear Fission is not dying.

Its actually doing very nicely, just not in the West, where its been [deliberately] strangled by over regulation.

If Brexit ever happens, it is likely that the UK might well adopt a more sane approach to regulation.

And build out some reactors: Its stated that around 50GWe would be needed at least to support ‘electric cars’

September 18, 2018 1:28 am

If we had very cheap energy then other than where minerals were on the surface such as most coal in Australia, the energy could be used to extract all we needed from the sea.


September 18, 2018 1:34 am

Will todays young Grens be prepared to give up all of their electronics toys to go back to the 1800 period, I don’t think so.


September 18, 2018 2:11 am

“A 2009 report by the National Academies of Science said that even plug-in hybrids ‘are unlikely to have much impact before 2030.’”

That seems basically correct to me. Larry Kummer seems to think that 1% of the market constitutes “much impact.” I don’t think that anything less that 10% of the vehicles on the road could be described as “much impact” and remember that % of the market is not the same as % of the vehicles on the road.

Concerned, resigned, but not alarmed
September 18, 2018 4:51 am

You say that human-caused climate change isn’t happening and never will, but today, a container cargo ship sailed through the North Pole for the first time in history because all the ice has melted. So what does that tell you.

Other things:
Great Barrier Reef is dead
Islands in the Pacific sinking into the sea
Sudden rise in heat deaths this summer and last
Every year, hottest year on record, six years in a row
Crazy increase in storm intensity
The Great Florida Fish Kill (still occurring)
Gulf Fungal Blooms
Earth’s average temperature is hotter than it was 50 years ago.
Permafrost sublimation

Do you think all of this is just suddenly going to stop one day? By itself?

A C Osborn
Reply to  Concerned, resigned, but not alarmed
September 18, 2018 5:55 am

You should stop listening to Green & Climate Propoganda.
That Cargo ship was an Ice Breaking Strengthened Container Vessel and had support from actual Ice Breakers.
The Barrier Reef is NOT dead.
Islands in the Pacific are NOT sinking into the sea, the only ones that show lower land levels are due to excessive drinking water withdrawal.
The Sudden rise in heat deaths did not reach the level of the sudden rise in Cold Deaths and never will.
Every Year hotter due to Adjusted data.
No increase in Storm Intensity, nor in quantity.
Earths average temperature hooter than 50 years ago, but not 80 or 1000 years ago.
Permafrost sublimation has always been going on since the last Ice Age, so nothing new.
Polar Bears are not dying out, but increasing.
Snow has not disapppeared.
Greenland has massively increased it’s Snow and Ice.
There are less wild fires.
There are less Tornadoes
There has been no Acceleration in Sea Rise Level increases.

Need I go on?

Matthew R Epp
Reply to  Concerned, resigned, but not alarmed
September 18, 2018 6:36 am

The short answer is YES.

The longer answer is, you are uninformed or at least misinformed.

We are in an interglacial. It is warmer than the previous ice age. During this interglacial, there have been other warm periods that were warmer than we are today specifically, the Minoan warm period, the Roman warm period and the Medieval warm period.

The Arctic sea ice is lower than average by 2 sd, but seems to be stabilizing, still there is evidence of an ice free Arctic in the past. See the Sea Ice Page on this site.

Great barrier reef isn’t in a death spiral, it dies and regenerates repeatedly throughout it’s history. A Google search will give you several articles to read.

Hottest year ever claims are within 100ths of a degree, which is beyond the accuracy of the measurements and if you research how those are calculated the entire nortyand south pole temps are extrapolated from a single reading to represent 1000’s of sq miles.

Keep reading with an open mind, and you may conclude that many of your concerns aren’t as dire as you think they are now.

Best of luck


Reply to  Concerned, resigned, but not alarmed
September 18, 2018 10:59 am

“all the ice has melted” There’s actually more sea ice in the arctic right now than there was in 2007.

Bill Nye won’t tell you that, neither will Mike Mann, Katherine Hayhoe, CNN, BBC, etc. etc.

They’re lying to you.

September 18, 2018 6:11 am

“But there is a deeper reason why fusion scientists disappointed us: we did not give them the money they said they needed to deliver in 20 or 30 years. “

No, there isn’t enough money to deliver fusion energy on any timescale. I first visited a fusion experiment in 1970, and later worked there. It has become clear to me that fusion can work as soon as a big enough tokamak can be built. How big is that? Probably it’s way bigger than any country can afford.

ITER may achieve theoretical break even but how does that scale up into a real power plant? Oh, and how will the radioactive waste be handled? Oh yes there will be waste.

So what is the motivation for this just out of reach dream, really? Won’t melt down? Molten Salt doesn’t have that problem either. Unlimited fuel? There are fission based routes to nearly unlimited fuels and burning the waste to boot.

Clearly there is a LOT of interesting technology to be developed for fusion. The low hanging fruit has mostly been tried since 1970. Maybe a few million dollars going here and there into skunkworks fusion projects could discover something new. Most of them look like things that were tried years ago.

So if non-polluting energy is so important why not take a Manhattan project ‘all of the above’ approach and commit just as much effort into fission technology?

Coach Springer
Reply to  David Thompson
September 18, 2018 7:34 am

We failed because you didn’t give us enough money. Well there’s a universal excuse for robbery. Or socialism.

September 18, 2018 8:15 am

A stupid article all around.
“Although nuclear power is dying as an industry (destroyed by incompetence), ”
Apparently this writer’s knowledge of nuclear power came from the Sierra Club.
While nuclear power in this country is not thriving, due mostly to the inability of
the U.S. to build large steel structures anymore, and a decades long span when no reactors were
built, nuclear power plants are springing up all over the world, built mostly by Chinese and Russian companies. The numbers : currently 58GW of nuclear capacity being constructed, 155 GW more planned, and 372 GW proposed.
But anyone familiar with the technology knows that molten salt nuclear reactors (some uranium fueled, some Thorium fueled) are the patently obvious future : easily constructed in factories, errected quickly on sites which require mimimal preparation and no need for a cooling body of water, inherently safe and able to provide power either cheaper or nearly as cheap as any other technology. This is a no brainer Two countries China and India are rushing to develop these reactors,as are a half dozen or more companies in this country and elsewhere. Several different designs, all of which should prove viable, some cheaper than others and able to be prototyped sooner. This is NOT a new, unknown technology – molten salt reactors have been operating for decades. The new designs use advanced material and smarter moderators to make the technology practical and able to use low grade uranium. Like right now.

Reply to  kent beuchert
September 19, 2018 9:55 pm

Totally agree. In the 1970s I was building instruments for fusion research. My customers were energy related (e.g inertial confinement experiments) and defense related (e.g. Sandia Laboratories and NRL).

Back then we thought that commercial fusion power was 40 years away. Forty five years later it may be more than forty years away.

In the 1990s Charlie Bowman built an accelerator driven reactor that we tested at TUNL (Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory) but we failed to secure $20 million to take the project to the next stage so it migrated from Duke to Virginia Tech (GEMSTAR project).

That got me interested in molten salt reactors which have great potential to improve on the already excellent safety characteristics of fission reactors while dramatically reducing capital costs and improving thermodynamic efficiency. Braxton cycle anyone?

September 18, 2018 8:58 am

Why are these type of articles like “if we just had more money we could…..?”

If it is viable and profitable, then Capital will arrive. If it is not, then government will waste money on it.

September 18, 2018 10:14 am

What the US needs is a nuclear version of the TVA where the government builds the reactors on government land or military bases, which are government land, and then has the facilities operated by civilian contractors: GOCO. The government agency, Dept. of Energy?, would then wholesale the power to the grid operators for distribution. The government claims it is a national security program and tells the greenies to move to California….

Reply to  David Hart
September 18, 2018 6:04 pm

That could happen. TVA is looking at a potential small modular reactor at its Clinch River site in some sort of partnership with ORNL. Ineel is also looking at possibilities.

Problem is that the NRC only knows how to license light water, LEU conventional reactors.

ORNL has some experience with molten salt, MSRE, and ineel has experience with liquid metal. Unfortunately that doesn’t include any active staff members.

Johann Wundersamer
September 18, 2018 4:17 pm

“breakthroughs achieved”. Dream on.

Michael S. Kelly, LSBSA, Ret.
September 18, 2018 4:33 pm

When I was at DARPA, I visited General Atomics, and was given a tour of the Tokamak facility they operate. It’s the only one in the world, right now, and is being used by people all over the world to obtain data for use in fusion reactor design. They have advanced the state of the art in plasma control to the point where the Tokamak runs for arbitrarily long periods of time at within shouting distance of engineering breakeven. The most significant aspect of this is that they only run deuterium. As the Chief Scientist (who gave me the tour) noted, they aren’t licensed to use deuterium/tritium. Given the very large difference in cross section between the two, I have little doubt that the GA’s Tokamak would achieve engineering breakeven effortlessly.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly, LSBSA, Ret.
September 18, 2018 6:13 pm

Re the GA tokamak: running a D-T plasma without massive neutron shielding and the required double wall plumbing for the tritium would create a literal hot mess. TFTR did have tritium piping and got in a few D-T shots in before they had to walk away and let it cool off.

Chris Hoff
September 18, 2018 6:44 pm

I didn’t see Energy Matter Conversion Corporation on the list. Last experiment they succeeded in achieving a wiffleball plasma confinement in their small Polywell fusion machine. That is to say, they injected a plasma into the center of six magnetic solenoids in a box configuration, and then energized the solenoids. The plasma diamagnetically repelled the six convex magnetic fields sealing off the magnetic cusps. It’s what is know as high Beta confinement.

M__ S__
September 18, 2018 7:23 pm

Even if the whole global warming . . . climate change . . . climate disruption (each of which has more nebulous metrics) dissipates and its adherents admit defeat, the very same people will come up with a new excuse (some new big threat caused by humans) for why we need to cede more power and more money to others.

This never was a real science effort. It’s always been political—just a means, an excuse, to form a globalist unified world government—that would ultimately collapse and cause as much harm as has been done in other countries.

Lloyd Jones
September 19, 2018 12:05 am

Not expecting fusion anytime soon.

Reply to  Lloyd Jones
September 19, 2018 9:44 pm

+ many +’s

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