Friday, February 15, 2013

Fusion is the Energy of the Future

Fusion was the energy of the future.  Fusion is the energy of the future.  Fusion will continue to be the energy of the future.

Since the 1950's the potential of nuclear fusion has been very attractive and some persons have again and again, visualized a future with clean and abundant energy.

Nuclear fusion means the fusing of two hydrogen atoms to produce helium plus loads of energy in the process, and the Earth's oceans literally have enough hydrogen to power a civilization for billions of years, however...

The technical and engineering breakthroughs needed to harness nuclear fusion in a controlled manner to produce useful power have been, so far, unconquerable.

To begin with, the most abundant isotope of hydrogen, protium, requires almost impossibly high temperatures to fuse and thus current research in nuclear fusion heavily relies on much less abundant and even radioactive isotopes of hydrogen: deuterium and tritium.

Deuterium can be separated from water, but Tritium itself has to be produced in conventional nuclear fission reactors (yes, the same ones that many environmentalists strongly oppose).

The most significant R&D fusion project presently in progress is the ITER reactor in France.  The current time-line calls for achieving the first plasma (in other words contained gas that is hot enough to undergo fusion) by 2020.  The project is scheduled to finish on 2038 without having produced any significant useful electricity.

Consequently, there is NO conceivable scenario in which nuclear fusion could generate more than one percent of humanity's total primary energy supply in 50 years, and thus it is almost certain that in the year 2063 we will still see fusion as the energy of the future.

That is why we began this post by stating that fusion was the energy of the future, is the energy of the future and will continue to be the energy of the future: a lot of hype but no real results.

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