Finally, Fusion Power Is About to Become a Reality

A very optimistic story from Medium.

It’s long so I’m posting only a small excerpt.~ctm

 

Long considered a joke, or a pipe dream, fusion is suddenly making enormous leaps

Go to the profile of Brian Bergstein

Brian Bergstein

Jan 3

The idea first lit up Dennis Whyte when he was in high school, in the remote reaches of Saskatchewan, Canada, in the 1980s. He wrote a term paper on how scientists were trying to harness fusion (the physical effect that fuels the stars) in wondrously efficient power plants on Earth. This is the ultimate clean-energy dream. It would provide massive amounts of clean electricity, with no greenhouse gases or air pollution. It would do it on a constant basis, unlike solar and wind. Whatever waste it created would be easily manageable, unlike today’s nuclear power plants. And fuel would be limitless. One of the main ingredients needed for fusion is abundant in water. Just one little gram of hydrogen fuel for a fusion reactor would provide as much power as 10 tons of coal.

Whyte got an A on that paper, but his physics teacher also wrote: “It’s too complicated.” That comment, Whyte says with a hearty laugh, “was sort of a harbinger of things to come.”

Indeed, over the next few decades, as Whyte mastered the finicky physics that fusion power would require and became a professor at MIT, the concept seemingly got no closer to becoming reality. It’s not that the science was shaky: It’s that reliably bottling up miniature stars, inside complex machines on Earth, demands otherworldly amounts of patience, not to mention billions and billions of dollars. Researchers, like Whyte, knew all too well the sardonic joke about their work: fusion is the energy source of the future, and it always will be.

That line took on an especially bitter edge one day in 2012, when the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would eliminate funding for MIT’s experimental fusion reactor. Whyte was angry about the suddenness of the news. “It was absolutely absurd — you can put that in your article — fucking absurd that happened with a program that was acknowledged to be excellent.” But above all, he was dismayed. Global warming was bearing down year after year, yet this idea that could save civilization was losing what little momentum it had.

Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor in Germany, 2017. Photo: Picture Alliance/Getty

So Whyte thought about giving up. He looked for other things to focus on, “stuff that wasn’t as exciting, quite frankly,” but stuff that would be achievable. “Everyone understands delays in projects, and science hurdles you’ve got to overcome, but I saw fusion energy being used for something accelerating away from us,” he says. “You start getting pretty dejected when you realize, in your professional career, you’re never going to see this happen.”

As it turned out, Whyte never really walked away. Instead, he and his colleagues and graduate students at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center figured out a new angle. And last winter, MIT declared that Whyte’s lab had a fundamentally new approach to fusion and threw its weight behind their plan with an unusually public bet, spinning out a company to capitalize on it. An Italian oil company and private investors — including a firm funded by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — put at least $75 million into the company, known as Commonwealth Fusion Systems [CFS]. The startup intends to demonstrate the workings of fusion power by 2025.

The recent progress is remarkable, says the founder of one startup developing fusion power. “The world has been waiting for fusion for a long time.”

Real, live, economically viable power plants could then follow in the 2030s. No joke. When I ask Whyte, who is 54, to compare his level of optimism now to any other point in his career, he says, simply: “It is at the maximum.”

But it’s not just MIT. At least 10 other startups also are trying new approaches to fusion power. All of them contend that it’s no longer a tantalizingly tricky science experiment, and is becoming a matter of engineering. If even just one of these ventures can pull it off, the energy source of the future is closer than it seems.

“It’s remarkable,” says David Kingham, executive vice chairman of Tokamak Energy, a British company whose goal is to put fusion power on the grid by 2030. “The world has been waiting for fusion for a long time.”


Imagine that I told you I was developing a special machine. If I put power into it, I could get 10 times as much out. Because of the undeniable laws of physics, I could show you on paper exactly why it should be a cost-effective source of vast amounts of electricity.

Oh, here’s the catch: My paper sketch would come true — especially the part about it being cost-effective — but only if I built the machine just right. Which might require materials that haven’t been invented yet. Until I perfected that design, my machine would use up more power than it produced. And I couldn’t get close to perfecting the design without spending years and years building expensive test machines that would reveal problems that I would try to address in subsequent versions.

If it seems crazy, well, that’s the story of fusion power.

Fusion definitely works. You see it every day. Our sun and other stars blast hydrogen atoms together with such intense force that their nuclei overcome their normal inclination to repel each other. Instead they fuse, sparking a reaction that transforms the hydrogen into helium and releases cosmic amounts of energy in the process.

We also have great paper sketches for fusion power machines. Fusion happens inside stars because of the crushing pressure created by their gravity. To generate that effect inside a fusion reactor, ionized gas — which is called plasma — must be heated and compressed by man-made forces, such as an ultra-powerful magnetic field. But whatever the method, there’s just one main goal. If you get enough plasma to stay hot enough for long enough, then you can trigger so much fusion inside it that a huge multiplier effect is unlocked. At that point, the energy that is released helps keep the plasma hot, extending the reaction. And there still is plenty of energy left over to turn into electricity.

The problem is that we’re still plugging away on predecessors to the machines that could generate that effect. Ever since the 1950s, scientists have used spherical or doughnut-shaped machines called tokamaks, including the one at MIT that lost funding a few years ago, to create fusion reactions in plasmas bottled up by magnetic fields. But no one has done it long enough — while also getting it hot enough and dense enough — to really tip the balance and get it going. Heating the plasma and squeezing it in place still takes more energy than you can harvest from it.

So, that’s the name of the game in fusion: to get past that point. ITER, a mega-billion-dollar reactor being built in France by an international consortium, is designed to do it and finally prove the concept. But ITER — which is also way behind schedule and over budget — overcomes the limitations of previous tokamaks by being enormous. It’s the size of 60 soccer fields, which probably isn’t an economical setup for power plants that the world will need by the tens of thousands.

ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) under construction. Photo: Christophe Simon/Getty

Read the full story here.

HT/Roger Knight

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211 thoughts on “Finally, Fusion Power Is About to Become a Reality

  1. Neutron embrittlement of the metals of the reactor vessel still seems like a likely show-stopper to me. Sure you can run it for awhile and prove more heat energy comes out than put in and make some net electricity from it, but then if you have junk the whole internal reactor structure in 90 days because you can’t stop neutrons from doing what high-speed neutrons do, then it’s an economic dead-end. The reactor structures themselves are so un-godly expensive to fabricate and build, you just can’t get to large scale economics needed for it to work.

      • The magnetic compression field for the heated plasma is generated from a physical vessel of very specific shape. The vessel itself is the mechanical problem. The fusion high energy neutrons steadily will cause long-term degradation of the reactor materials; swelling, hardening, and nanometer-size material defects/failures that can lead to micrometer cracks and ultimate failure with time.

        In fission reactors, very specific types of low-alloy steel, special considerations of weld locations, lots of steel thickness, and use of lots of water in the jacket between the fuel rods and vessels walls all works to attenuate and mitigate the fast neutron embrittlement problem. Fusion magnetic containment designs are limited in what they can do in this regard to attenuating the neutrons before they impact the reactor wall material.

        Maybe if fusion reactor vessels can become inexpensive mass-produced commodity items, such that regular replacement is economical, then I could see it working on large scale. Such a large-scale power plant could have say 24 medium size fusion reactors with half or-so in constant reactor vessel replacement while the other half are running and making heat for electricity. The engineering and economics of such a commodity reactor design could be an interesting PhD thesis.

          • O.. K… first develop the physics for such a thing. Fusion implies nuclear reactions. Nuclear reactions implies nuclear particles that must have enough energy to react with other nuclei to sustain a self-reaction. That is high energy particles. Fast neutrons folks. Gamma rays, damaging, deeply ionizing EM radiation . Bad stuff if you’re a biologic.

            Let’s be clear here.
            Nuclear energy is high energy stuff… like radiation, fast neutrons, highly radioactive nuclides… that’s where the energy to make steam to drive turbine of any size comes from. That is hard radiation folks. Lots of it.

            We’re not talking unicorn farts here or magic pixie dust. This hard radiation stuff is seriously damaging to biologic molecules. It even damages metal containment structures over enough time without flowing water jacket shielding.
            Duh.

          • There are plenty of fusion reactions that don’t produce many (or any) neutrons: Helium-3 is the most well-known example. The problem, as I understand it, is that those reactions are harder to start and sustain than the alternatives.

          • and helium-3 comes from where?

            Please do the work that gets you to substantial (fusionable) quantities of He-3.
            You just might learn something.

          • On the topic of the fuel for these reactors, the article states that:

            “Just one little gram of hydrogen fuel for a fusion reactor would provide as much power as 10 tons of coal”
            Implying that ordinary hydrogen is a suitable fusion reactor fuel.
            I seem to recall that one needs deuterium and tritium.
            That ordinary hydrogen is far too hard fuse. The one reaction that uses protium also requires boron, and this reaction is orders of magnitude harder to contain that deuterium and tritium reactions.
            Is this wrong?
            It should not be implied that ordinary hydrogen is fusion reactor fuel.

          • Just more spin and hot air.

            Nowhere in this lengthy text do we learn the slightest details of this amazing break through, the “new angle” which will make this happen.

            It’s just an empty puff piece , probably designed to secure more funding.

            The situation does not seem to have changed from: ” fusion is the energy source of the future, and it always will be.”

          • “Nowhere in this lengthy text do we learn the slightest details of this amazing break through, the “new angle” which will make this happen.”

            You have to click on the “Read the Full Story Here” link.

          • PS: Excuse me if you DID click there. (It seems to me that the full article provides lots of info on how the developer plans to make his dream work.

          • MarkW sez:
            There’s supposed to be a lot of Helium-3 on the moon.

            Bingo! And that’s why China is so interested in the far side of the moon….

            /conspiracy mode

          • Lonnie, with multiple stupids trying very hard, you need to be more specific regarding who you are aiming your encouragement at.

        • Joel,

          Do you suppose that there is the possibility to leverage some of the reactor vessel designs from the KIWI / NERVA rocket programs with respect to the fusion containment vessel construction?
          https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19910017902.pdf

          Oak Ridge Labs has some experience (though it might be lost) with respect to the use of beryllium in manufacturing alloys ( I seem to recall papers in which they list that as a key component in their Molten Salt reactor designs/prototypes). Los Alamos Labs would likely have some good experience as well, since they did a lot of work on the KIWI / NERVA projects.

          • Confused why you’re mentioning Kiwi/Nerva and Molten Salt Reactors. They were all fission powered, which involves slow neutrons, and so much gentler with the embrittlement (but it’s still there, of course).

          • I made reference to those specific reactor designs because, at least in the case of the NERVA project, they specifically made use of Beryllium metal alloys to modulate the neutron “flow”. While the velocity of neutron flow, or even the volume of neutron flow, would differ between a fission and fusion reaction; the reactor designs could be examined in light of what could be required for neutron emission modulation in a fusion reaction. Perhaps they would provide a working model (that didn’t require water) as a base to develop a containment vessel that would allow the reactor operate safely.

          • ORNL developed Hastelloy-N (nickel-molybdenum alloy) for molten salt reactors, but this was primarily for its resistance to salt corrosion up to 1500 C. Not likely to find a miracle alloy resistant to hard neutron bombardment. Solution is to protect vulnerable crystalline or amorphous lattice solids of the containing vessel by protecting with a fluid jacket of water or something else that is highly opaque to neutrons, but not disruptive of magnetic fields.

          • Why stop there?

            We could then build some artificial habitats at a suitable distance to take advantage of the waste heat. Just make them large enough to generate a gravity strong enough to retain an atmosphere and we could settle excess population onto them. Something about 12000 km diameter should do it.

      • Then it would need to be sun sized- Oh! Somebody had already gone and done it, and looky here! We are orbiting around it!

    • There’s almost always a pesky detail.

      I’ve followed a number of promising technologies over the years. They all got past the pilot plant stage. None of them panned out. There was always something that made them uneconomical.

      Don Lancaster has written a lot on the subject of inventing. He made the observation that, if a lot of people had been working on something for a long time, it wasn’t going to bear fruit any time soon. The low hanging fruit has almost certainly been picked and it is likely that some kind of breakthrough is necessary. In that light, I sure wouldn’t bet the farm on fusion.

      • Don’t forget, fusion is a relativistic technology. To any observer at any point in time, its implementation is always ten years away.

      • And beryllium, while a good neutron reflector to enhance fission criticality, is a nasty metal to do fabrication with. The nuclear weapons production industry realized this in the late 40’s and 50’s. In nuclear weapons, beryllium does its job just before and during the fission super-criticality assembly of the pit. After that it’s all vaporized and of little concern compared to the other things in the bomb that become radioactive and dangerous.
        Google: berylliosis.
        More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berylliosis

        • meh.
          Be-Cu is commonly used in plastic injections molds as it makes the copper harder and has a good thermal conductivity.

          Yes, there are hazards associated with manufacturing products with it, but there are methods to mitigate the risk.

          • Seem to recall Be-Al alloy tools were available (for applications needing very lightweight/non-spark tools) in catalogs when I was an engineer.

        • Beryllium is used in microwave oven magnetrons, which are refused by scrapyards and are not supposed to be dumped in landfills. Where are you supposed to get rid of the damn things?

        • Be was used in the initiator of early A-bombs, as a reliable neutron sourcce, rather than relying on a passing cosmic ray to start the chain reaction at the right a nanosecond.

    • In the article they do talk about their solution for neutron embrittlement. They intend to use a molten lithium salt as a shield using the lithium neutron reaction as a way to breed tritium.

      • The fusion plasma is held in a high vacuum under magnetic containment and compression. The liquid molten LiSalts are on the “outside” of the vessel. The Lithium is collecting the fast neutrons that make it through the reactor wall as well as transport the working heat of the reactor. Clearly this is needed to attenuate radiation beyond the immediate reactor and generate some useful tritium, but still does not alleviate the immediate neutron irradiation of the vessel wall itself.

        The magnets of ITER are superconductor-magnets like the LHC a held at ultralow temps by supercritical helium cryogenics.
        https://www.iter.org/mach/cryo

        So many engineering problems to make a usable reactor to make net electricity.

      • The Boron+H fusion reaction requires 100X the temperatures (billions of degrees C) at the same confinement pressures as D+T, and D+T fusion. Thus the break-even point (Ein vs Eout) to still far, far away for Boron+H fusion. D+T break-even point is probably now achievable and somewhat beyond, which if the engineering point ITER is trying prove — more energy out than put in. Boron fusion may be low fast neutron, but many many decades away if at all.

        • Wrong Joel. LPPFusion has already achieved reactor temperatures around 3 Billion degrees C and held it long enough for a fusion reaction. The LPPFusion team is now working on implementing redesigns along with with various fuels culminating with the hydrogen-boron mix. The redesigns and fuels are intended to achieve required densities for net fusion. From LPP News:

          “Following our initial experiments (this year) with pure deuterium, we will introduce a mixing gas, either nitrogen or neon, to start simulating the mixture of gases that we will have with our ultimate hydrogen-boron fuel…Then, in the Fall (2019) or beyond, we will start introducing our experiments with hydrogen-boron, pB11 fuel. Since this fuel burns faster and more energetically than deuterium, that will again boost our fusion yields and put us on the track to our goal of getting more energy out of the device than we put into it—net energy.”

          https://lppfusion.com/plans-for-the-new-experiments/

          • Meni– The LPPFusion team has achieved two of three Lawson Criteria and you shrug and say “Big Deal”… It is a big deal even if you are unable to grasp the consequences and significance.

          • What does that mean, achieved 3 billion degrees reactor temperature?
            So they bought some ultrapure boron.
            And they have a device and a procedure that can create on a momentary basis the conditions for some nuclear reactions to occur.
            That is not news.
            They are working towards releasing .25 joules of energy?
            I was just reading about a guy who built an operational fusor when he was 14 years old.
            So what?

        • Um…they are in the planning stage of working their way up to 1.0 joules from 0.25 joules.
          And someone thinks this means they got more energy than they put in?
          The issue here with this particular approach, besides for ignoring all the work and energy to create the conditions for the test to be performed, is scalability.
          Hint: Add a whole bunch of handwavium and eliminate all traces of hohumium, then send out a press release mentioning a carbon free future a bunch of times, and this will really be going somewhere.
          As it is, the hype factor is thousands of orders of magnitude too low to even warm a cup of coffee, or get a major media mention as the salvation of mankind being just around the corner.

          • This is not the final state of the FF-1 reactor… you don’t seem to understand the invention and development cycle… the scaling laws are enormous and the steps that are being taken to hit those milestones are discussed in detail on the LPPFusion website… this is not 12 years and $50 B away… it’s in the final stages this year to hit the fusion mark…

            Nothing however is guaranteed… that’s why they do the experiments … we should have a pretty clear idea of whether the DPF approach is viable within months.

            That’s why the FF-1 reactor isn’t being hyped; but nor are blanket pronouncements that it will fail at all justified.

        • What are you babbling about?

          The roster of officers is dominated by veteran physicists, EEs and computer scientists.

          Pretty crude smear job. Based on nothing …

          • Posa,

            Apparently you didn’t even look at their own link.

            The smear is all yours, as anyone clicking on the link can see.

    • ‘you just can’t get to large scale economics needed for it to work.’

      Not to mention jumping over everyone who’s going to try and ban it.

    • The proton-proton fusion reaction doesn’t emit neutrons. Neutrons are produced via the decay of protons, but the neutrons remain bound within 2-H atoms.

      Two 1-H atoms collide, emitting a positron and neutrino with a resulting 2-H atom.

      The positron annihilates with an electron, producing two gamma ray photons.

      The 2-H atom collides with a 1-H atom, emitting a gamma ray photon with a resulting 3-He atom.

      Two 3-He atoms collide, emitting two 1-H atoms and 4-He atom.

      In a pure proton-proton fusion reaction, there should be no free neutrons, hence no neutron embrittlement. And I’m sure, if there were a risk of free neutrons being released in the process, they’d use zirconium cladding, which has a very low cross-section of absorption of thermalized neutrons.

      There would be no process in a proton-proton fusion reaction energetic enough to produce fast neutrons.

      • Because the conditions required to bring about proton-proton fusion, no reactor designs or experiments use this reaction. It may be the worst choice possible.
        Even in the sun, most of the time that two protons do fuse, they then split back into two protons.
        It is estimated that even under the conditions inside the center of the core of the sun, on average it takes a billion years for a proton to fuse to another.

  2. I wish him luck, but..

    “Global warming was bearing down year after year, yet this idea that could save civilization was losing what little momentum it had.”

    Unless this is just shameless pandering to rich, stupid people, I doubt that he has the smarts to pull it off.

  3. Well, it can’t be a sealed system. You have to get fusion products out and new fusionable (sp?) materials in. You need a way to transfer the heat produced by the fusion reaction out to run turbines. Then there’s the whole atomic displacement issue inside the reaction vessel itself. I hear “lots of progress has been made” but nothing of substance.

  4. You probably also need to add nuclear fusion has also been reached countless times by a number of the reactors but none have been able to reach self sustainability point. It takes a lot of energy to contain the fusion and you can’t make enough power to ever reach breakpoint.

    Your article also touches on the big reason for recent interest in that you talk about materials that don’t exist. Advances in QM have allowed for for materials in the last 10 years that were traditionally though of as impossible. We have metamaterials that can break almost every classical law you can think of and that is a game changer for fusion designs.

    • We just need a bigger government commitment (like WWII, the Apollo program, etc.) to create unobtainium for use as the vessel wall. /sarc off

      • Nature has solved the fusion problem…the Sun. And we have cheap and sustainable ways of capturing the resultant energy, Photovoltaics and Wind (as well as various methods of storage). Why do governments continue to pursue Fusion? Solar and Wind is distributed power thus increasing human freedom, Fusion (and Fission) is centralized, thus reducing human freedom, the main goal of all governments.

      • I’ve actually got a fully working Fusion Reactor design I’ve been working on for a few years. Everything is already spec’ed out. I’ve just got a few materials issues to finalize.

        First, I’ll need a room temperature superconductor, preferably one that can be extruded as wire.
        Second, I’ll need a material with a Moe’s hardness rating of 12.4 or higher, but as ductile as copper.

        Finally I’ll need someone to create artificial gravity.

        From there, it’ll be easy.

        ~¿~

    • Unless the reactor design can induce the plasma to confine itself and then pinch until fusion is achieved… which is exactly the design of Dense Plasma Focus. Much of this design already works.

      See LPPFusion.com for video animation and published results.

      • How about instead of a website of a company, you show us the link to a video of power being produced?
        Thorough documentation is not what is needed.
        What is needed is proof, that is observable and tangible and can be shown to people.
        A you tube video of the apparatus in operation should be very simple to make if there is such an apparatus in operation.

        • A little deeper in the site you would be able to see the results of testing of the reactors and the 2x gain over input power in the output. You could also see the temperatures at which the reactions take place. There are also reviewed papers available for download. Failing that, I’m sure it would appear to be another “we’re almost there” paper.

        • Ya I want to see a video showing electrons produced so I can count them as they go by that’s the only proof I will take. Do I need the tag?

          • A sarc tag?
            I take it you are ridiculing the notion that something more than an assertion is required, if serious people are to believe in the reality of some magical effect that no one can demonstrate while other people are watching?
            Just say “Hey, it is well documented and these guys have a plant up and running that is making power, and here is the proof (posts link which leads to a countdown clock for something which will happen in a few weeks!), so there!”
            How about a bet?
            I will bet you any number of thousands of dollars you want to specify that no one will show any proof whatsoever, or even evidence, of anyone making electricity from low energy nuclear reactions, cold fusion, or anything similar, at any time.
            Name a date and we can discuss odds. For January 31st, the date of that countdown zero hour, the chance is zero and I call BS and I dare you and challenge you to put your money where your mouth is.
            No tags needed because I mean what I am saying.
            Man up, iron man…it is only money.

      • I went to the Brillouin web site. Not much detail, so I started going through the FAQ page. One of the more interesting FAQs linked to the “experimental results page” which, when I clicked, was not there.
        I can bullshit better than *that* myself.

  5. How about this article:

    https://phys.org/news/2019-01-scientists-stabilizes-fusion-plasmas.amp

    Now they are reviewing papers that they wrote in 1983 to highlight the latest technology trends. So, back then they already knew that fusion would be a commercial reality by 2013. Now that we’ve been enjoying cheap abundant fusion power for lo these past 5 years…what’s that? It’s still 30 years away? I don’t get it. It’s almost as if a whole bunch of scientists have made a living on an incredibly expensive Rube Goldberg contraption for their entire careers, could that be? Surely you don’t think that there could be anything improper here? I mean actually some of the original fusion scientists from the 50’s probably had children who have died since this project started.

  6. “the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would eliminate funding for MIT’s experimental fusion reactor… So Whyte thought about giving up. … Instead, he figured out a new angle.

    Having the right bait is always important

  7. The important question is, if this works, will the Greens allow it to be counted as renewable energy or not. After all, we don’t count large scale hydro as renewable, at least in CA.

  8. Thirty years out? Not a chance, maybe 130. Soon enough We’ll have 1,000’s of fission small scale modular reactor’s to carry us through until then (we just need to stop wasting money on wind/solar/bio-fuels).

    • Just think of what will happen to global warming with all of these thousands of little suns spread over the surface of the earth! Future Luddites will have many a field day protesting this source of energy.

  9. Why don’t we just do molten salt thorium reactors first which we proved worked at Oak Ridge in the 60’s.

  10. Click bait headline. Nowhere in the article explained how fusion power have overcome the input/output energy barrier .. and becoming a reality soon. Sorry state of journalism

    • How about the problem of then paying back for the cost of the machine at a scale that makes the initial investment approach being trivial?
      Fossil fuels built an entire industrialized world economy, using the energy left over after that which was used to obtain the materials and built the power plants.
      As with wind and solar, it is a long way from creating more energy than was put in, to making enough to easily make more of them using part of the profits and energy obtained, with plenty left over.
      Can we build wind turbines using just wind turbine energy, and create an industrial economy on what is left over?
      These guys think creating more energy than was put in, for a few nanoseconds and after years of prepping for those few nanoseconds, is a huge success.
      Several years ago it was breathlessly announced via press releases that company was few short years away from marketing a compact fission reactor That it was all but a done deal.
      Funny how we have not heard back from that venture.
      We are now back to giant multibillion dollar contraptions that could lead to something useful within a few decades.
      And ten years ago it seemed very likely that we were on the verge of a renewed building spree of next generation fission power plants. But then a earthquake caused a mishap at a very old and comically misengineered nuclear reactor complex, which had some very well identified and easily solvable but potentially catastrophic flaws in the backup systems. And that one single issue was blown out of all proportion, demagogued and fearmongered ad nauseum, and overnight blew up the plans to build more fission power plants all over the world!

        • Imagine though if instead of wind turbines and solar collectors, all of that money and effort had instead gone towards building nuclear power stations.
          So after checking, I see we have 99 nuke power stations in the US that provide just under 20% of our power.
          Most of these must be getting kind of old.
          We have two new reactors in the US, but 34 have been permanently decommissioned, which I suppose is not news to you. 20 more are expected to close within a decade or so I think.
          But 74 have had their license extended or the extension applied for.
          50 is better than nothing, but really it is keeping power cheap here that is my main concern.
          Having more nuclear generation means that nat gas likely stays cheaper for longer.
          After TMI, over 100 US plants, many already under construction, were cancelled, and not a single new one had ground broken from 1977 until 2013. In 2017 two new reactors under construction in SC were cancelled, after 4 years of work had already been done.
          Similar story in GA, but there the problem is Westinghouse went bankrupt.
          Having a hard time finding out exactly how many projects were cancelled after Fukashima, but the number should have been zero given the particulars of that issue.

      • “without containment”? That “big one 93 million miles away uses gravity as a containment mechanism. It’s not “without containment”. So maybe the approach should be figuring out how to make large gravity fields with out requiring much mass.

  11. ITER (“The Way” in Latin) is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today.
    Fusion is the energy source of the Sun and stars. In the tremendous heat (150,000,000° Celsius) and gravity at the core of these stellar bodies, hydrogen nuclei collide, fuse into heavier helium atoms and release tremendous amounts of energy in the process.
    The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel. Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
    In 1997, a European tokamak JET produced 16 MW of fusion power from a total input heating power of 24 MW. ITER is designed to produce a ten-fold return on energy, or 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of input heating power.
    ITER’s First Plasma (the first time the machine will be powered on for testing) is scheduled for December 2025.
    Achieving a deuterium-tritium plasma in which the reaction is sustained through internal heating is planned for 2035.
    So don’t hold your breath.

  12. fusion is the energy source of the future, and it always will be — last week My son [who did MS in Nuclear Physics in Ann Arbor, Michigan] visited India had chat on problems in electricity related issues. Then he told the same as the present story — fusion is the energy source of the future, it is going to be reality in few years time then all aspects of pollution, global warming will find a place in a dustbin.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • Jeev,
      I wish your son well. But if your son wants a well paying job with a future, I recommend he concentrate on fission. Fusion is for bombs and the sun. If he wants to study those… then fusion.

      But… If he wants to make difference in people’s lives with affordable energy… then fission.

  13. Fusion output exceeds kinetic energy imput
    Inertial confinement by laser implosion is competing with magnetic plasma containment. Laser implosion by inertial confinement has taken a major step forward by showing fusion energy output greater than the laser caused kinetic energy input by imploding shell around frozen deuterium or polycrystalline diamond.
    See US National Ignition Facility developments this last year.
    Nominally they need about another order of magnitude from energy input to fusion ignition and another for commercial operation.
    Le Pape, S., Hopkins, L.B., Divol, L., Pak, A., Dewald, E.L., Bhandarkar, S., Bennedetti, L.R., Bunn, T., Biener, J., Crippen, J. and Casey, D., 2018. Fusion energy output greater than the kinetic energy of an imploding shell at the National Ignition Facility. Physical Review Letters, 120(24), p.245003.
    https://dspace.mit.edu/openaccess-disseminate/1721.1/116411

    A series of cryogenic, layered deuterium-tritium (DT) implosions have produced, for the first time, fusion energy output twice the peak kinetic energy of the imploding shell. These experiments at the National Ignition Facility utilized high density carbon ablators with a three-shock laser pulse (1.5 MJ in 7.5 ns) to irradiate low gas-filled (0.3 mg=cc of helium) bare depleted uranium hohlraums, resulting in a peak hohlraum radiative temperature ∼290 eV. The imploding shell, composed of the nonablated high density carbon and the DT cryogenic layer, is, thus, driven to velocity on the order of 380 km=s resulting in a Mb<peak kinetic energy of ∼21 kJ, which once stagnated produced a total DT neutron yield of 1.9 × 10^16 (shot N170827) corresponding to an output fusion energy of 54 kJ. Time dependent low mode asymmetries that limited further progress of implosions have now been controlled, leading to an increased compression of the hot spot. It resulted in hot spot areal density (ρr ∼ 0.3 g=cm2) and stagnation pressure (∼360 Gbar) never before achieved in a laboratory experiment.

    • Sadly, there is no conceivable method to move that laboratory energy (heat from radiation) to make steam to make electricity. It’s a science project with no obvious scalability to a sustainable net power generation. Cool physics, but of no commercial practical value.

    • Energy output greater than the kinetic energy input, but not of the enormous amount of energy that produced both the fuel and the laser blast in the first place. This term is almost as misleading as those climate models.

  14. Yeah, uh huh, when the tocamac fires up and generates 1 megawatt, send me an email. This crap needs to be shut down. Fix nuclear and make all the reactors exactly the same, so one something happens to one, the others can all be upgraded the same.

  15. Fusion Power… LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

    /Choking on laughter.

    Efficient, Cost Effective Fusion Power is 100 years or more away and maybe always will be. Line up Green Energy for a cost comparison – it’s far ahead of Fusion Power.

    Let’s get real and invest in Nuclear Energy for the next 100 years while they get Fusion Power problems worked out. Nuclear energy WORKS. There is nothing stopping us from building highly reliable nuclear power plants that are relatively safe and effective.

    • Realistic assessment seem to concede that 50 years, at a minimum, is more like it.
      It is all a big if, and anyone who says different, IMO, is thinking wishfully and thus not credible.
      Something which has never, after billions of dollars and decades of effort, managed to come even close to doing what it needs to do in order for large scale power generation, has to be called what it is: Theoretical.
      At best.
      I also agree with what you said about fission power.
      That people and nations cannot muster the will to build nuclear reactors, and in fact are mostly being decommissioned as a matter of policy by some states and even entire large countries, is truly pathetic.
      Germany and the majority of the German people, seem to be genuinely convinced that CAGW is a catastrophe which is crashing down upon us as we speak, but even this nation of supposedly highly educated and intelligent people, are dissembling nuclear power plants, burning brown coal, not reducing emissions, making power incredibly expensive rather than cheaper, and in general not behaving even somewhat rationally or logically.

      • 50 years is too long for any known principle advance into deployed capability. At some point, 15 to 30 years from now, the first of the Artificial General Intelligence computer will appear and quickly improve itself. Within a few years of whenever that occurs, any engineering problems between NASA Technology Readiness Level 2 and 9 will fall quickly.

  16. I love reading these articles – I decided to go to the University of Texas in 1964 in Physics, because they were starting work on a Tokamak Reactor. I wanted to be in on the “ground floor” and looked forward to the future (about 20 years out, they were saying). Fortunately, I switched to Math after two years, and didn’t go down the Fusion drain. Hard to believe that was 54 years ago.

    However, I always have best wishes for anybody still willing to try. Some of the startups seem to have high confidence, and at least they are attracting private investors now, which is much more likely to find something practical, if it can be done at all. In the meantime, let’s get Molten Salt, and other fission technologies into scale production, and bridge the gap…

    • And what is He-3 good for? Ask yourself some very basic questions Pft.

      Lunar He-3 is extremely diffuse, literally useless resource on the Moon. It’s 268,000 miles from Earth. The energy needed to mine it, concentrate it, and then bring it to Earth for a fusion reactor to make energy here far exceeds any thing it would deliver.
      He-3 is a neutron absorber, great for making detectors of Pu and U natural neutron emissions at the borders to guard against terrorist nukes. Here on Earth, we have copious amounts of Deuterium in seawater that makes a far better fusion source than He-3.

      It’s like someone sees some fiction crap on some SciFi movie or TV show and it magically becomes like fairy dust for Earth.

      Folks, we need energy here on Earth, not on the Moon or in orbit. Here on Earth. Duh.

    • China landed on the moon in 2018 and tested the soil.
      And that demonstrates we are being left behind…again?
      Huh?
      We went there, sent people there, many times. We have a car there.
      We brought back huge amounts of the “soil” (it aint soil) and rocks.
      And we did it…drum roll please…wait for it…nearly 40 year ago.
      Then stopped going back because, well…because it costs a huge amount of money and there is nothing there but rocks.
      Newsflash…we have several landers walking around testing the soil on Mars, and other countries have sent probes to comets and asteroids and tested the soil.
      We have probes that have left the heliosphere, and one has landed on the moon of a as giant planet.
      And taken close of pictures of the rest.
      Left behind?
      When they claim and start terraforming Venus, I will agree with you.

    • Nucleosynthesis in the cores of stars, and the chain of events that leads to such phenomenon as planetary nebulae, supernovae (and the nucleosynthesis therein), the Hertzsprung-Russel Diagram, not to mention the detailed elucidations of the various processes that give us a very good approximation of the current observed makeup of everything from our own solar system to the observable galactic nebulae…well, all of it taken as a whole, means that any idea that would supersede it would not only have to prove all of what is currently though to be the case to be false, but also provide an equally lucid and coherent explanation for everything we have learned from our observations of the sun and of the cosmos.
      Probably a higher bar than trying to prove that the age of the Earth is less than 10,000 years, or that dinosaurs and other fossil, and the Grand Canyon and such, etc, are left over evidence of Noah’s flood.

      There are people who doubt that the HIV virus causes AIDS, and others that think vaccines are a scam.

    • alan,

      Please name these “scientists” and state what they say.

      Stellar fusion was a theory or hypothesis in 1920. Now it’s an observation, ie a scientific fact.

  17. “Finally, Fusion Power Is About to Become a Reality”

    “The recent progress is remarkable, says the founder of one startup developing fusion power.”

    Well startup companies looking for funding would say that, wouldn’t they.
    I didn’t read about any fundamental breakthroughs in the article.
    I will remain hopeful but not holding my breath.
    It still could be possible that a working fusion power plant is a long way off -not in our lifetime.

    • I noticed one thing that made everything else said sound just a LITTLE disingenuous…
      “Real, live, economically viable power plants could then follow in the 2030s…”
      The 2030s.
      That sounds like a few decades off to me.
      And then there is that little word “could”.
      Toss in a sprinkling of “if(s)”, and it sounds just like it has always sounded.
      I mean literally JUST like it has always sounded.
      As for the optimism of the people who have devoted their lives to this…well, if they were not optimistic they would not be still working on it or talking about it, would they?
      Optimism is like an opinion…it is not evidence. And it says nothing about likelihood. It is more or less a state of mind, an emotion. Humans have in in abundant quantity. Most of us were optimistic that the end of the cold war meant the end of economic dead end of the soul crushing economic system called socialism. And that 20 years with no warming would put an end to the nonsense about CO2 being the thermostat of the atmosphere.
      Anyway, how much confidence should we have in the opinions and optimism of a scientist, who has for an argument against diverting funds away from fusion research, this subtle hint that maybe he is somewhat less gifted with scientific insight that might be hoped:

      “But above all, he was dismayed. Global warming was bearing down year after year, yet this idea that could save civilization was losing what little momentum it had.”

      What exactly is “bearing down on us”? Save civilization?
      Sounds like someone who may be slightly given to delusions of grandeur and narcissism.
      If. Could. 2030s.

      *not holding breathe*

  18. The various LENR experiments are fascinating. However, if this technology is so relatively easy to do compared to hot fusion, why isn’t it being investigated more? There are one or two companies that claim to have commercial products but they don’t seem to be in widespread use.

    The problem as I see it is that in academic circles today, science has become the dog that is wagged by the tail of mathematics. If no mathematical proof of a concept exists, then that concept may NOT be investigated in the lab. End of story. Which is a silly attitude, and may be denying us the chance to make new discoveries.

    Most new discoveries, after all, start of with someone noticing that an effect doesn’t fit within our current model of the universe. A good example was the observation of retrograde orbiting of planets, one of the key factors in the ousting of the geocentric universe concept.

    • LENR would be great.
      Some people seem to think it is a reality, but if so, where are the you tube videos of the people making it work?
      Some people seem to think fusors or a polywell machine is the answer.
      Maybe wishful thinking, maybe something there.
      It is not hard to believe that if fusion power is ever a reality (if!), it will be something simple, rather than a gigantic warehouse sized, and incredibly complicated, and exquisitely finicky, rubegoldbergian dealio.

    • It should not go unsaid that LENR was long ago investigated with the goal of confirming the results several decades ago.
      After many attempts by labs all over the world, and several concerted efforts to answer definitively whether there was any “there”, there…the efforts were dropped.
      Because no one, not even the people who discovered the alleged phenomenon, could reproduce the results when people were watching, the cameras were rolling, and confirmation would constitute “proof”.
      On top of all of that, there is no explanation for how it could be that fusion occurred without any release of gamma radiation or neutrons. IOW, if it actually was happening, why aren’t those people dead?
      And why are there no detectable nuclear fusion byproducts?
      In short, it is simply not true that LENR has been investigated.
      Read through the Wikipedia article on the subject, which includes many links to sources that can be looked at one by one.
      Then show where or why there is any reason not to dismiss the claims?
      Is it possible something is going on there?
      Sure.
      But to be called science, a result has to be able to be repeatedly and reliably reproduced when an identical procedure is followed.
      LENR fails that test. There has been no confirmation.
      Poltergeists might be real…plenty of people claim to have seen or heard them, but unless someone offers some solid evidence, why should anyone believe it?
      Just because someone made an assertion?

      • Your comments show that you have a down on LENR, because those tests have been repeated and there is anomolous heating experienced, at least that is according to NASA & DARPA.
        It is obviously not of Nuclear quantites and it remains to be seen if it will ever be worth anything commercially.
        https://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/sensors/PhySen/docs/IPAG12_Presentation.pdf
        https://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/sensors/PhySen/docs/LENR_at_GRC_2011.pdf
        https://nari.arc.nasa.gov/node/259
        http://coldfusion3.com/blog/new-pentagon-report-on-lenr

        Googling NASA & LENR shows up many articles.

        • By “have a down on”, I take it you mean to say you think I am predisposed to dismiss the whole thing?
          I do not.
          I would love to see it happen.
          But after looking into it again several times in recent years, there is no convincing evidence that the few and scattered reports of anomalous heating cannot be explained by sloppy work, faulty equipment (neutron detectors that fail when they get hot), spiking or outright fraud(tritium detection), etc.
          If other people follow an identical procedure and cannot replicate a result, what does that mean?
          In this case, even the people getting the original result have not been able to replicate it with any reliability. After several weeks, sometimes some of the setups seem to have some period of time where heat is anomalously produced, but without the hail of neutrons (fatal dose expected with even 1 watt of power production), or gamma radiation, or other reaction products noted…just some heat.
          Which could come from lots of places…like maybe hydrogen and oxygen recombining.
          We are supposed to be skeptical.
          A result from a benchtop apparatus that cannot be replicated by anyone who tries it is not highly credible.
          Thirty years.
          In thirty years, where is the beef?
          A video?
          Someone getting power from nowhere?
          Believing something no one can demonstrate is not science.

  19. Interesting thread and thanks to Mr. O’Bryan for the insightful commentary. I have no expertise in this field, but robust physical containment is kind of a table stakes requirement and I now grok the complexity of this challenge far better then I did before.

    Still, while daunting, I remain hopeful. Yeah it may take a 100 or 500 years, but I’d bet on success and sooner rather than later. Three reasons:

    1. Knowledge is growing exponentially due to an ever growing pool of educated players (and competing startups) and technological advances (computing, AI, massive data aquisition/storage/processing technology, material sciences, etc.).

    2. There is a massive financial opportunity for anyone who succeeds. The fossil fuel suppliers won’t like it but capitalism works and visions of being the next Rockefeller are good inspiration.

    3. Ultimately we need a clean terawatt class power technology so that our many billions can all live a lifestyles with the luxuries that abundent and inexpensive energy provides (HVAC, refrigeration, water purification and transport, industrial scale manufacturing, mass transit, communications, etc., etc., etc.). So many will be motivated to continue the pursuit.

    All that said however, you are all correct that while we pursue utopia we are foolhardy to ignore nuclear fission and natural gas, which for all of their shortcomings are the most benign and affordable terawatt scale technologies we have. And as the old adage goes a bird in the hand is worth a Tokamak in the bush : )

    • Looks like a Stellarator is worth 2 Tokomaks.
      The reason for fusion is energy flux density. This is the reason the greenie backwardness is not only daft, but genocidal. The stepwise increase in energy flux density matches the population increase. Any attempt to reverse this, as Dr. Schellnhuber well knows, is an attempt to go to 1 billion persons. Even to attempt to stay still with no advance will cause the same.
      A Manhattan program (which gave us fission) for Fusion is the key to this.

  20. I’m convinced that the future of power is molten salt nuclear reactors. And there is no ntrinsic difficulty in handling “nuclear wastes” which aren’t wastes at all – they contain enormous amount of residual thermal energy which could produce enormous quantities of desalinated sea water at very little cost. As for molten salt nuclear reactors, they can be constructed for roughly $2000 per KW, and produce power very cheaply – roughly $44 per MWhr or 4.4 cents per kWhr. The plants can be built very quickly, located anywhre, are every bit as safe as any fusion reactor would ever be and doesn’t require any unknown technolgy – the technology has been around since the dawn of nuclear power, but impractical moderators and a means of fighting its corrosive effects on the reactor core material have been the hangup. I am extremely skeptical that fusion would ever be economicaly competitive with small modular molten salt reactors.

    • “The future” is not a static thing- it is a moving target. One thing is sure, each technological platform means a jump in energy flux density. Look at wood to oil to coal, to fission. After fusion, antimatter beckons – that’s our horizon right now.

      With each step the “waste” of the previous platform becomes a raw material – fission isotopic waste with a fusion torch will be very valuable.

  21. It would be great to live in a world filled with well educated people, who are, if not highly knowledgeable, are at the very least logical, rational, and intellectually honest.
    People whom, if they were not actually trained in any specific fields of scientific inquiry, at the very least knew what the word “science” means.
    People who know enough to see the absurdity in sentences like “D. Nyer Guy does not believe in the science”, and who do not call anyone who is not a gullible and dogmatic warmista ideologue a “climate denier”.

    We do not live in that world.
    The vast majority of people in the word are innumerate, scientifically illiterate, and disappointingly miseducated.
    And large numbers of those who have actual science credentials are the very ones who seem most readily given to fearmongering, credulous and one sided views, stupefying levels of confirmation bias, and selective attention to information to a degree that is actually incomprehensible.

    Far from pursuing utopia, we seem to be led in many countries by people who are blind and deaf to reality, and we give credence not to the logical and rational among the scientific literati, but to rent seeking frauds and miseducated cranks, and our institutions of higher education have been handed over to socialist misanthropes.

  22. Two thinks worry me, the effect of the internal radiation on the metal of the container , and the sheer need of a steady supply of a great deal of electricity to keep the magnetic field going.

    Maybe sometime in the future they will overcome all of the problems, but right now we need lots of energy and we know that the old designs for old fashioned nuclear works and works well.

    We now have designs that can use the fuel rods used by other reactors, to extract the last bit from the rods, but even with the older waste, so what. Australian scientist perfected “Simrock” and we have a stable crust in this country. Drill a deep hole, problem solved.

  23. Seems no-one is doing a little fact checking here. Look up Friedwardt Winterberg – he shows the difference between NIF Laser and inertial confinement, just one of many refs :
    https://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12229892.htm
    His book on the “bomb” (where fusion works well) shows there is no “secret” out there, only a political resistance. It requires a Manhattan Program approach which Trump could invoke. It looks like a national emergency that NASA is grounded, fusion is only a M.I.C “secret”, and no US mass transit or proper health care exists. Trump can invoke the famous Clause 8, National Credit, for this, no matter what the FED says.

    And China’s Cheng’e 4 is after He3 on the Moon. A thermos can of that stuff leaves all other fuels in the dust.

        • What we were never told (so I read – maybe it’s true) that the second satellite the Russians sent into space was a 3500 pound object the size of a car. This was a demonstration that a ballistic missile was alive and well.

          Maybe someone can prove or refute the claim. A beep from space is one thing, a working Big Dumb Booster with a nuke on it is quite another. As many here will know, NASA’s hostility to the BDB made their progress slow, expensive and ultimately, is the reason Russia dominates launches today.

          • Crispin in Waterloo

            What we were never told (so I read – maybe it’s true) that the second satellite the Russians sent into space was a 3500 pound object the size of a car. This was a demonstration that a ballistic missile was alive and well.

            From Wikipedia.
            Sputnik 2 (Russian pronunciation: [ˈsputʲnʲɪk], Russian: Спутник-2, Satellite 2), or Prosteyshiy Sputnik 2 (PS-2, Russian: Простейший Спутник 2, Elementary Satellite 2) was the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit, on 3 November 1957, and the first to carry a living animal, a Soviet space dog named Laika, who died a few hours after the launch.[2]

            Launched by the U.S.S.R., Sputnik 2 was a 4-meter (13 foot) high cone-shaped capsule with a base diameter of 2 meters (6.6 feet) that weighed around 500 kg, though it was not designed to separate from the rocket core that brought it to orbit, bringing the total mass in orbit to 7.79 tons.[3] It contained several compartments for radio transmitters, a telemetry system, a programming unit, a regeneration and temperature-control system for the cabin, and scientific instruments. A separate sealed cabin contained the dog Laika.

            Engineering and biological data were transmitted using the Tral D telemetry system, transmitting data to Earth for a 15-minute period during each orbit. Two photometers were on board for measuring solar radiation (ultraviolet and x-ray emissions) and cosmic rays. A 100 line television camera provided images of Laika.

            Not a 3500 lb “satellite” but still quite large at 500 kg (1100 pounds). But, more important, was the fact that it did carry a pressurized chamber holding the dog, and the dog did survive (for a little while, then died of heat stress and possibly CO2 poisoning). The radio and batteries were near-duplicates of the original tiny Sputnik sphere + 4 radio telemeter antennas, the whole “satellite” was a cone holding the tip, the radio sphere, and the pressure vessel. But its length was long enough to carry the nuclear weapons of the day, its weight, more than 20 times what US planned satellites weighed, and it worked. The rocket was also simple, and was left attached to the cone rather than carry the weight and complex booster-separation mechanism to eject the rocket and tanks once fuel was exhausted. Again, simple – but it worked.

            And that was what was needed at the time by the Soviets and their R-7 booster.

            Ironically, their initial success provided the “kick in the pants” needed to get American politicians and the military-industrial complex off of the collective tailpipes to get energized and beat the Soviets. First to the moon, then technically, then economically in the mid-90’s. Complacency – then as now, beat the Americans in the long run.

  24. Just a thought regarding fusion. We already have a very stable and reliable fusion reactor the only challenge is how do we capture the excess energy it produces and turn that energy into positive helpful endeavours on Earth.
    Most of us have concluded, the best and the simplest method is to use the stores of that fusion reactor converting the thermal energy into mechanical energy via engines and turbine power plants producing electricity.
    A few Luddites seem to have convinced some decision makers particularly in Western countries, this is too simple and too effective to be allowed. These fusion harvesting alternative energy types lets call them Greens, think wind turbines and solar panels are the better option for humankind (did you notice what I did there).
    These low level fusion energy collectors are fine in the right places, but won’t sustain growing economies and growing populations, all needing more stuff.
    I suspect the Greens will ensure Earth based fusion never gets adopted, because it is too useful if it was ever achieved.
    The lowering of energy availability is what the UN is focused on not increasing it.

    • The Trump Admin. downgraded the EU to NGO status without even bothering to inform Brussels – the same should go for the UN.
      Great irony – attemps at world gov’t treated like private firms! Hilarious.

  25. The Chinese are currently building coal powered electricity plant hand over fist. Not only in China but all over Africa and other countries too.

    Maybe they also think fusion is 50 years away and always will be.

    Come to think of it, maybe they also think that the global warming catastrophe is, as always predicted, about 10 years away and always will be too.

  26. The fact we can get in to one of these experimental fusion reactors and take pictures, putting aside the high energy neutron problem, suggests these are toys with no serious commercial application prospect in the near future.

    • Some tired CERN tech left his ‘petit-dejeuner’ on the ring one day not long ago. Firing up the microwave system caused a huge supercooled He degassing (explosion) delaying for many months all work.
      Still, I would not call it a toy – leave no crumbs please.

  27. Why it cannot be done
    “If you get enough plasma to stay hot enough for long enough, then you can trigger so much fusion inside it that a huge multiplier effect is unlocked. At that point, the energy that is released helps keep the plasma hot, extending the reaction. And there still is plenty of energy left over to turn into electricity.“
    But,
    “To generate that effect inside a fusion reactor, ionized gas — which is called plasma — must be heated and compressed by man-made forces, such as an ultra-powerful magnetic field”
    Here is where it falls apart.
    The moment a multiplier effect is unleashed the energy produced forces the plasma to expand hence the magnetic field can contain it no longer.

  28. Article’s comparison of fusion power to air flight is laughable. Wright Bros. first flight (1903) was just 27 years after Otto’s invention of the 4-stroke engine. Stellar fusion was predicted by Bethe in 1938. Now 80 years later, fusion is still the energy of the future. The problem with magnetic confinement of plasma is chaos (one of my favorite equations)

    • My favorite math equations:

      Golden ratio – the answer to life, the universe and everything
      a/b = b/(a + b)

      Euler’s identity – the beauty of constants
      e^(i π) + 1 = 0

      Mandelbrot set – the shape of infinity
      Zn+1 = Zn^2 + C

      My favorite physics equations:

      Time dilation – time travel in Einstein’s relativity
      t’ = t L
      Where: t’ is time at moving frame, t is time at rest frame, L is Lorentz factor

      Virtual particle – the magic of quantum mechanics
      E t o (o + B + 3)/(o – B – 1)
      Where: p is Rayleigh number = 28, o is Prandt number = 10, B is a geometric factor = 8/3

      • My favorite physics equations:

        Virtual particle – the magic of quantum mechanics
        E t < h’/2
        Where: E is energy, t is time, h’ is reduced Planck constant

      • My favorite physics equations:

        Lorenz attractor – the butterfly of chaos
        p > o (o + B + 3)/(o – B – 1)
        Where: p is Rayleigh number = 28, o is Prandt number = 10, B is a geometric factor = 8/3

    • Have a look at the Wendelstein 7x – their unique equations and construction is stunning.
      Sure thermonuclear fusion works, the M.I.C regard it as their little “secret”, fake secret, not laughable at all.

      What is funny is the famous meeting at LLNL where a Soviet physicist told his hosts how they got their fusion going – the US establishment classified it preventing Americans amongs themselves even mentioning it after being told by Soviets! Russiagate hystria today is its shadow.
      The “elite” behind that insane circus is the reason it is delayed.

      Mastery of fire by ordinary citizens has always driven looser Zeus to paroxysims of insane rage,

    • Last two came out wrong. Here’s correct version:

      Virtual particle – the magic of quantum mechanics
      E t o (o + B + 3)/(o – B – 1)
      Where: p is Rayleigh number = 28, o is Prandt number = 10, B is a geometric factor = 8/3

    • Stellar fusion of H into He was proposed by Eddington in 1920.

      He also suggested that heavier elements might be made inside stars.

      • Eddington anticipated the discovery of stellar fusion in 1920 but Bethe discovered the complete theory of stellar nucleosynthesis in 1938. That’s why Bethe won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his theory and Eddington did not.

        • Bethe’s theory of stellar nucleosynthesis wasn’t complete. He dealth only with the proton-proton chain reaction and CNO cycle, not with the production of heavier elements. That awaited Hoyle’s work.

          Your comment was on predicting stellar fusion. Eddington did that, long before Bethe. And even in some detail.

  29. Let’s say that at some point, someone will get the technology to work at a power plant scale.

    First generation fusion is highly unlikely to be cost-competitive with traditional nuclear power. It’s a benefit that the fuel is unlimited and inexpensive, but that won’t be a huge economic advantage for a very long time. Perhaps by that time the technology will be ready. Or, maybe by then we’ll have 50 years of experience with plasma furnaces, which also offer unlimited fuel.

  30. Lost in the shuffle was the quote about “It was absolutely absurd — you can put that in your article — …. absurd that happened with a program that was acknowledged to be excellent” in cutting off public funding and turned to private sector funding.

    The point is that there really is no need for public funds to be used to develop an unneeded energy, experimental, speculative source. Even in pursuit of the mythical CO2 disaster that is seconds or hours or years or decades or centuries in our future. And don’t allow public funds to subsidize this. Go figure how many medical research centers you can fund for what’s been spent on, in sum, a hugely wasteful public project.

    And, if one is really serious about CO2, put money behind thorium power. It’s an engineering problem, not an experiment.

    • The most interesting and promising NEW approaches to fusion energy are privately funded… some of it actually crowd-sourced. The biggest public funding for fusion energy is earmarked for ITER… which is a loser and according to former DoE fusion director Hirsch can never become a commercial energy generator.

      New approaches (or revived old approaches) to fission and fusion should be judiciously funded… with those that show the most promising results assisted towards fast commercialization.

  31. So the guy is going to use superconducting gaffer tape to make his magnets.
    This is The Breakthrough as best I can see.

    And molten salt to catch the neutrons – reasonable maybe.

    And then use that to boil water.
    sigh facepalm
    There is temperature enough to make a Carnot Engine with near enough 100% efficiency – so they throw 65%+ of the energy away by boiling water to what, 600 degC tops?

    Its just hopeless. What ARE the words?

    Even before you realise they are burning water.
    We’ve burned the forests and plants across 33% of the habitable area on Earth
    We’re burning the dirt on another 33% presently
    We’re on course to burn all the coal oil and gas.

    So we turn to burning water. That’ll take care of the remaining 33% of the (presently frozen) land surface

    Smacks of desperation doncha think.
    Wild eyed insanity or to use the lawyer’s understatement = Unreasonable Behaviour
    Maybe someone something somewhere is thinking of filing for divorce – from us.
    Can you blame them.

    [???? .mod]

  32. “Finally, Fusion Power Is About to Become a Reality”

    Seriously?! No one has ever even achieved one second of greater-than-breakeven energy. (Let alone even 1 minute of net electrical production.) If a similarly silly headline was found in the mainstream press about photovoltaics or wind (e.g. “Global 100 Percent Renewables is About to Become a Reality”) it would properly be torn to shreds on WUWT.

  33. Jupiter hasn’t achieved fusion with its 1.9X10^27 kg of mass and I doubt anyone will make a sustainable fusion reactor on Earth in my lifetime. But it sure seems like a good way to separate suckers like Bill Gates from their money.

    • Everyone here should read this, D Mac.
      A huge bucket of cold water on the hype.
      These projects use materials and power in amounts that could build and power small cities, and are not designed to anything other than test concepts…zero chance of generating any power because they do not capture any power, only produce it.
      And rarely has anyone actually used an tritium, because not only is more lost than burned, it will make the whole thing dangerously radioactive once tritium is burned!
      And the whole world has 25 kg of tritium, total! With 0.5 produced ever year, and ITER expecting to use 1.0 kg/yr just for testing, iffen they dare use any.
      Krikey!
      The machine weighs 400,000 tons, and massive amounts of fossil fuels are used in every stage, right up to the 300-500 megawatts of power used to cool the magnets and such, and the additional 50 megawatts to heat the fuel!

      “The website implicitly boasts of this massive energy investment, depicting every one of the ITER subsystems as the most stupendous of its kind. For example, the cryostat, or liquid-helium refrigerator, is the world’s largest stainless steel vacuum vessel, while the tokamak itself will weigh as much as three Eiffel towers. The total weight of the central ITER facility is around 400,000 tons, of which the heaviest components are 340,000 tons for the foundations and buildings of the tokamak complex, and 23,000 tons for the tokamak itself.
      But boosters should be distressed rather than ecstatic, because biggest and greatest means big capital outlay and great energy investment, which must appear on the negative side of the energy accounting ledger. And this energy has been largely provided by fossil fuels, leaving an unfathomably large “carbon footprint” for site preparation and construction of all the supporting facilities, as well as the reactor itself.
      At the reactor site, fossil-fuel-powered machines excavate huge volumes of earth to a depth of 20 meters and manufacture and install countless tons of concrete. Some of the world’s largest trucks (powered by fossil fuels) convey mammoth reactor components to the assembly site. Fossil fuels are burned in the extracting, transporting, and refining of the raw materials needed to make fusion reactor components and possibly in the manufacturing process itself”

      “Recently, the website New Energy Times presented a well-documented account, “The ITER power amplification myth,” about how the facility’s communications department disseminated poorly worded information about the ITER power balance and misled the news media. A typical widespread statement is that “ITER will produce 500 megawatts of output power with an input power of 50 megawatts,” implying that both numbers refer to electric power.
      New Energy Times makes it clear that the expected 500 megawatts of output refers to fusion power (embodied in neutrons and alphas)—which has nothing to do with electric power. The input of 50 MW referred to here is the heating power injected into the plasma to help sustain its temperature and current, and it’s only a small fraction of the overall electric input power to the reactor. The latter varies between 300 and 400 MW(e), as explained earlier. ”

      Say what?
      Holy moly!
      And this will go on through the years of the 2040s!

      “Deuterium is abundant in ordinary water, but there is no natural supply of tritium, a radioactive nuclide with a half-life of only 12.3 years. The ITER website states that the tritium fuel will be “taken from the global tritium inventory.” That inventory consists of tritium extracted from the heavy water of CANDU nuclear reactors, located mainly in Ontario, Canada, and secondarily in South Korea, with a potential future source from Romania. Today’s “global inventory” is approximately 25 kilograms, and increases by about one-half kilogram per year, notes Muyi Ni and his co-authors in their 2013 journal article, “Tritium Supply Assessment for ITER,” in Fusion Engineering and Design. The inventory is expected to peak before 2030.
      While fusioneers blithely talk about fusing deuterium and tritium, they are in fact intensely afraid of using tritium for two reasons: First, it is somewhat radioactive, so there are safety concerns connected with its potential release to the environment. Second, there is unavoidable production of radioactive materials as D-T fusion neutrons bombard the reactor vessel, requiring enhanced shielding that greatly impedes access for maintenance and introducing radioactive waste disposal issues.”

    • It gets better:

      “During the unavoidable teething stage through the early 2040’s, it’s likely that ITER’s fusion power will be only a fraction of 500 MW, and that more injected tritium will be lost by non-recovery than burned (i.e., fused with deuterium).
      Analyses of D-T operation in ITER indicate that only 2 percent of the injected tritium will be burned, so that 98 percent of the injected tritium will exit the reacting plasma unscathed. While a high proportion simply flows out with the plasma exhaust, much tritium must be continually scavenged from the surfaces of the reaction vessel, beam injectors, pumping ducts, and other appendages for processing and re-use. During their several dozen traverses of the Tritium Trail of Tears around the plasma, vacuum, reprocessing and fueling systems, some tritium atoms will be permanently trapped in the vessel wall and in-vessel components, and in plasma diagnostic and heating systems.
      The permeation of tritium at high temperature in many materials is not understood to this day, as R. A. Causey and his co-authors explained in “Tritium barriers and tritium diffusion in fusion reactors.” The deeper migration of some small fraction of the trapped tritium into the walls and then into liquid and gaseous coolant channels will be unpreventable. Most implanted tritium will eventually decay, but there will be inevitable releases into the environment via circulating cooling water.”

    • Better still:

      “Designers of future tokamak reactors commonly assume that all the burned tritium will be replaced by absorbing the fusion neutrons in lithium completely surrounding the reacting plasma. But even that fantasy totally ignores the tritium that’s permanently lost in its globetrotting through reactor subsystems. As ITER will demonstrate, the aggregate of unrecovered tritium may rival the amount burned and can be replaced only by the costly purchase of tritium produced in fission reactors.
      Radiation and radioactive waste from fusion. As noted earlier, ITER’s anticipated 500 MW of thermal fusion power is not electric power. But what fusion proponents are loathe to tell you is that this fusion power is not some benign solar-like radiation but consists primarily (80 percent) of streams of energetic neutrons whose only apparent function in ITER is to produce huge volumes of radioactive waste as they bombard the walls of the reactor vessel and its associated components.
      Just 2 percent of the neutrons will be intercepted by test modules for investigating tritium production in lithium, but 98 percent of the neutron streams will simply smash into the reactor walls or into devices in port openings.
      In fission reactors, at most 3 percent of the fission energy appears as neutrons. But ITER is akin to an electrical appliance that converts hundreds of megawatts of electric power into neutron streams. A peculiar feature of D-T fusion reactors is that the overwhelming preponderance of thermal energy is not produced in the reacting plasma, but rather inside the thick steel reactor vessel as the neutron streams smash into it and gradually dissipate their energy. In principle, this thermalized neutron energy could somehow be converted back to electricity at very low efficiency, but the ITER project has opted to avoid addressing this challenge. That is a task deferred to delusions called demonstration reactors that fusion proponents hope to deploy in the second half of the century.”

  34. ‘No one has ever even achieved one second of greater-than-breakeven energy.’
    WRT energy in and out, fusion achieved greater-than-breakeven several years ago (if you don’t include the energy necessary to build the components of the reactor). However, we are nowhere near greater-than-breakeven economics.

    A liquid fluoride thorium reactor is far more plausible, safer and economic than fusion and will be the main source of power in mankind’s future. If we are to have a future that is.

    ‘And molten salt to catch the neutrons’

    A thorium reactor would be useful for that as well…(hybrid thorium/fusion)

    • I think those tests ran for fractions of a second.
      I could be wrong.
      Otherwise, yes…getting as much energy released as was put in to produce the reaction is Q=1.
      Engineering breakeven has been calculated as requiring Q=5…fives times more energy released than was put in, so that enough energy can be captured and converted to heat that is then used to generate enough power to keep the machine running on it’s own…basically recirculating power.
      But economic breakeven is much higher, north of Q=20, and likely higher than that.

      Note to that most of the results obtain so far are extrapolated, as the machines are designed to react deuterium and tritium, but tritium s dangerous and expensive and tends to leak and get lost. So most tests have used H or D and extrapolated the resulting break evens.
      The people working on these things are not even of any consensus that economic breakeven is even possible if ignition is achieved and sustained.
      Obviously, the cheaper the machine and the more the power is worth, the lower the bar, and the opposite is also true…expensive machine, insanely expensive, cheap alternatives = high bar for breakeven.

  35. The pursuit of fusion is laudable, but the guy’s virtue-signalling to “climate change” is idiotic. I hope he doesn’t actually believe that — that it’s just a simple ploy for funding.

  36. The first commercial operation of cold fusion started on Nov 19, with a single industrial E-Cat SK supplying 27 kW to heat a factory. You can see a live demo on Jan 31here. http://www.ecatskdemo.com/

    As it is far cheaper than other sources of energy and clean,safe, with zero pollution, it should kill off the present renewable energy industry almost over night. I expect it to replace most fossil energy over the next couple of decades. The tiny reactor, about the size of your little finger is scheduled for mass production.

    There is little point in describing the reactor until readers accept that it is real. Anthony maintains that it is bogus.

  37. “But no one has done it long enough — while also getting it hot enough and dense enough — to really tip the balance and get it going. Heating the plasma and squeezing it in place still takes more energy than you can harvest from it.”

    Then problem is not “heating and squeezing” the plasma. That’s been successfully done for decades. The problem is that it’s unstable. As the article says, “no one has done it LONG enough.” I don’t see anything in the article that suggests they know how to address the instability.

    • Matthew, a practical fusion reactor for producing electricity won’t be seen in ten of your lifetimes. Or ever, for that matter.

      A hundred years from now, advanced fission reactors of various types will be producing an ever-growing fraction of the world’s energy.

      I’m betting on the small modular reactors (SMR’s) to be the next generally-available major new advancement in nuclear power technology. NuScale will be the first SMR out the door with an NRC license and a full-scale 12-unit plant. Others will follow.

      Even three hundred years from now, the fissionable source material is likely to be plain old uranium and plutonium, rather than thorium. (Take that, all you thorium groupies!)

      For those like me who have a strong belief in the long-term value of fission as a practical energy resource, it can be said unequivocally that nuclear power gets glowing reviews.

  38. Even if proven to be conceivable, the green establishment will unilaterally reject the notion because any success would completely destroy what has always been the real agenda; the elimination of free markets and socialism/communism/fascism.

  39. Joel O’Bryan is completely right here.

    The fusion experiments with tritium and deuterium produces so many high energy neutrons that there is simply no way to contain it or make it safe for people.

    In a way, it reminds of the climate debate. Fake science designed to support scientist’s income.

    Fusion produces many times more radioactivity that fission does. Now if we could go back to the straight-up deuterium hydrogen fusion that doesn’t produce the extra neutron then we would have a power source. But it is much much harder to make deuterium fusion and then the energy produced is so much lower given you are not counting a high energy neutron flying away at the speed of light.

    You cannot be near a fusion reactor made from tritium and deuterium. You would simply be disintegrated within several seconds as would all the blocking material you try to put in the way.

  40. Interesting about “neutron embitterment.” 16 years ago, I treated myself & the other half to a top-class crossing on the QE2. True to myth, I ran into interesting folks on that trip, including a nuclear reactor engineer. I told him that I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies or about nuclear reactors, but could he tell me if fusion power will ever happen? I first saw material about it when I was in college in the 1970s, so has there been any progress in the intervening 30 years?

    No, he replied. We know how to fuse atoms — witness the hydrogen bomb — but we cannot contain the reaction. That is and will always be the show-stopper, he said. Then he explained how thick the steel and concrete containment walls would need to be; how short-lived the structures would be; and how nasty the waste would be when it came time to bury the parts.

    Aha, I said. Thanks for burying that one. It would seem that it remains buried. We have great paper sketches for fusion power machines, the article said. Now there’s a priceless one-liner.

    • Jake: That’s like asking a professional climate scientist if AGW is real. That argument is true of the enormous government sponsored programs like ITER, but there are several small organizations working on reactions that are not Deuterium-Tritium. I know of at least three that are working on reactors that use Boron-proton physics that do not release high energy neutrons.

  41. We have fusion power already: gigantic caverns in which bombs are are detonated; because of politics – or perhaps better said because of emotions, we do not tap this amazing potential and instead try to miniaturize this beyond what physics can sustain so that it better fits the image of the commercial power plant.

  42. “Until I perfected that design, my machine would use up more power than it produced.” –

    you depict real existing renewables – windelecs and PV.

  43. ” It’s the size of 60 soccer fields” and it should be erected in the Sahara or Antarctica because it’s a helluva machine and no one should stay near when it misconducts.

  44. Some of the more environmentally aware dinosaurs were worried about the consequences of an accident with the new Iridium enriched fusion reactor. “If it goes off only the cockroaches and mammals will survive…” they said.

  45. There is ample evidence that fusion occurs in stars, and that stars are in fact the source of heavy elements. However, I haven’t been convinced that fusion is the ‘power source’ of stars. Now that we are becoming aware of how much plasma there is out there, and how it travels insane distances while maintaining charge separation, another option presents itself. If stars are indeed strung like pearls along galactic-scale electric currents as some plasma physicists claim, the goal of self sustaining fusion will turn out to be as ridiculous as it appears.

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