February 7, 2010

NOTHING COSTS MORE...:

Fusion at core of power dream (Tamsin Carlisle, February 06. 2010, The National)

Nuclear fusion holds the promise of virtually limitless energy supplies from a fuel source available to everyone, without the carbon emissions of combustion, the intermittency problems and huge land requirements of most renewable energy sources, and with fewer safety and security issues and much less radioactive waste than fission-fired atomic power.

Nuclear fusion releases 10 million times as much energy per unit mass as burning petrol. If it could be harnessed on earth, it would solve the planet’s energy problems.

That “if”, however, is huge. Despite decades of high-priced tinkering, no one has yet produced a sustainable fusion reaction by a method yielding more energy than it took to produce.

“Nuclear fusion as currently understood occurs only in the core of stars, in nuclear weapons, in high-temperature plasmas or in inertially confined high-energy collisions,” states a recent analysis report by the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

By all indications, a so-called practical fusion reactor is still a far-off figment of futurists’ imaginations. Even so, the vision refuses to fade.

That is why the EU, US, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and India are collaborating to develop the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in the south of France at a projected cost of €12.8 billion (Dh64.34bn). The ITER website says the world’s biggest fusion machine should start test operations in 2018 and could inject power into the grid “as early as 2040”.

“Iter” means road in Latin, but the ITER project is not the only possible path to commercial fusion power. Here is an inventory of some potential routes to clean energy’s holy grail...

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 7, 2010 11:07 AM
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