Alternative Fusion Project Still In Play

The search for sustainable fusion as a power source continues though it appears it may be 20 years away...just as it has been for the past 60 years. While the NIF (National Ignition Facility) which uses UV lasers, and the ITER project, which uses a tokamak design, are still making small strides in generating as sustainable fusion reaction with a net energy gain, they aren't there yet.

There are a number of other fusion projects around the world trying to achieve the same goal. Of all of them, only two of these other projects appear (to me) to have a chance of success. Ironically, both of them are low budget approaches compared to the billions spent on the NIF and ITER projects. And of those two, one has had a number of successful research prototypes, that being polywell fusion. The other, a reactor design by Lockheed Martin, won't see any tests on its fusion reactor until 2017 at the earliest.

Polywell fusion, also called Electrostatic Confinement fusion, was first theorized by Harold Grad and followed up by the late physicist Robert Bussard. (This is something I've covered before, here, here and here.)

Polywell fusion has received funding in the low/mid-double-digit millions while NIF and ITER have received billions, yet it appears polywell fusion has made greater strides. With each series of prototypes and tests, the so-called “Wiffle Ball” reactors (named that because the reactor core resembles a wiffle ball) have proven out Bussard's math and predictions.

What I find ironic is that should polywell or any of the other fusion projects achieve their goals and fusion power becomes a reality, the lunatic fringe “greens” will fight tooth and nail to keep it from ever being turned into a commercially viable technology. Writes one commenter to the WUWT piece:

If a viable, commercial nuclear fusion plant was built today Greens would oppose it to their core. They will create imaginary dangers and attempt to deceive.

Oh look what I see! They started even before one is built! It’s worse than I thought!

He then goes on to link to a number statements from Greenpeace that amply illustrates their total ignorance about how fusion works and the inherent risks which are a small fraction of that of fission plants.

The lunatic greens also have a general hatred of technology as shown by this quote from Jeremy Rifkin of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation, who said “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.” Yeah, like this guy has any understanding of what virtually unlimited energy could do to save ecosystem. All he can see is that anything new automatically equates to “bad”.

Then you have incredibly pessimistic comments from someone like doom-sayer Dr. Paul Erlich who stated “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” This from a man who made a number of apocryphal predictions, none of which came to pass. It just shows us how much of a misanthrope he is. (According to him we should have starved to death, frozen to death, burned to death, or died of thirst by now.)

Therefore, I think it's safe to ignore Rifkin, Erlich, and all of the other “We're all DOOMED!” lunatics.

Should fusion power come to fruition and do so at a reasonable cost, the possibilities of what it can do are limited only by our imaginations and our willingness to do the work to make it so. Let's hope they succeed.