Could fusion be a solution to our problems ? 7


iterEven if energy efficiency is today’s best solution to all our climate change and energy scarcity problems  (see why), I was thinking that I never wrote here about fusion, the future of nuclear energy.

Due to be environmentally friendly and even safer than current nuclear with fission, fusion will provides us tremendous amounts of energy once it will be ready for commercialization.

Today’s article will have a look at the current main project on fusion, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor also known as ITER.

ITER combines the efforts of many countries: China, India, the whole European Union (as well as Switzerland) , Japan, the United States of American and the Russian Confederation.

The official website provides us with a lot of details, especially the introduction page as well as the objectives of the project and even an estimated timeline.

This timeline brings us to the main problem of this project: at the current speed, the construction of ITER would be completed by 2016. Then ten years of further research would be needed as shown in this page. That brings us to around 2025.

CleanTechnica notes that things could go a little bit faster and banks on the assumption that

” a pilot power generation plant could be ready as soon as 2020, with commercialization following soon after. “

The readers of Dot Earth also believe things have to be pushed forward. Indeed, the opinion of Josh King, San Diego, CA was recommended 64 times, making it the second recommendation for Barack Obama out of a list of 11.

Here is a short extract :

The only way I see of breaking this vicious feedback loop is through the development of an environmentally benign, cheap, reliable, and abundant energy source.

None of the current alternatives (i.e. solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, and conventional fission) fit all four of these criteria, and the only possible source of energy that could, is fusion.

Over the past 50 years our countries Department of Energy has been charged with the task of developing fusion into an energy source.

However, in fusions entire history an experiment intended to generate net power output has never been attempted.

In any case, that let us with plenty of time to make our civilizations more energy efficient and respectful of our environment by the more extensive use of renewable energies.

My conclusion is the following: fusion won’t be the solution for the first half of the 21st century, but my guess is that it could play a large role in the second half of this century and well beyond.

What about you ? I look forward to reading your comments !


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7 thoughts on “Could fusion be a solution to our problems ?

  • Meryn Stol

    I don’t know much about nuclear fusion, but I do have the intuition that decision makers underestimate its potential.

    Sometimes, I consider just calling for endless solar plants, wind farms, carbon capture on coal plants, and third (or now coming fourth) generation pretty unimaginative when considering the speed at which new technology comes available. With that, I also think about opportunities to conserve energy, such as telecommuting, building more energy efficient homes and more, better and faster public transportation.

    I don’t think that I have even covered all opportunities in the above paragraph. I assert that virtually no-one on earth has a complete account of ALL ideas to conserve or produce energy, certainly not our leaders (e.g. those in charge of the budgets).

    So I think one important task for me, for us, is to explore all these possibilities, including nuclear fusion, and try to asses what the potential is for each, including the uncertainties involved.

    The next generation might well be laughing hard at us when they see all those “20th century” windmills across the country. I think we should aim for that we can say that we honestly couldn’t have done better at the time. That we actually worked with everything that we had available. We’re not doing that now.

  • Edouard Post author

    indeed Meryn, possibilities are endless. there are tons of ways to conserve energy and so on. but we have to take the most efficient ones.

    To me wind farms are great, but I guess that the same money given to energy efficiency would allow for bigger energy consumption and CO2 emissions cuts.

    I also smile when people are happy with a 1 MW solar plant when a simple nuclear reactor bring 1,200 MW to the grid. (1,350 with EPR if I am not mistaken)

    Many thanks for your comment, I look forward to reading your next one 🙂

  • Frank Boring Fitzgerald

    ITER is not enough study of fusion reactions. Neither are Tokamaks. Sonofusion is by far the safest and most sensitive to funding. Its patents, copyrights, and re-issuence of patents ought to remain in government hands. I do not want to see private interests hoarding fusion power simply to recover a greater share of my pocket-book expenditures for energy.

    Frank Boring Fitzgerald, Published Theoretical Physicist