January 31, 2003
US To Rejoin International Fusion Energy Effort

Speaking at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Spencer Abraham announced the United States will rejoin an international consortium to build a fusion reactor.

On Thursday, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced at PPPL that the United States is joining negotiations with Canada, Japan, China, the European Union and the Russian Federation for the construction and operation of a major international magnetic fusion research project, known as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER.

The proposed design will produce more energy than it uses.

ITER has been designed to confine a plasma of deuterium and tritium for times of up to 500 seconds, and to produce 10 times as much fusion power as is used to create and maintain the plasma.

Secretary Abraham draws an optimistic picture for fusion energy's future.

Despite fusion's long research history and unresolved fate, Abraham said the Bush administration still thinks it should remain a major goal in U.S. long-term energy plans. Fusion promises to produce "no troublesome emissions," he said. "It is safe, and has few, if any, proliferation concerns. It creates no long-term waste problems and runs on fuel readily available to all nations. Moreover, fusion plants could produce hydrogen ... to power hundred of millions of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the U.S. and abroad."

This is nothing to get excited about in the short term. We are still looking at the 2040s before fusion could become a major source of energy.

The project's goal is to prove the technical feasibility of fusion energy. It should put scientists one step away from a demonstration fusion power plant, which physicists believe could be achieved in 35 years.

My guess is that by the time fusion energy's technological problems are solved solar cells built with nanotech combined with nanotech hydrogen storage materials will already have displaced fossil fuel as the primary energy source. But fusion will be useful for Mars colonies where less sunlight reaches.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 January 31 04:31 PM  Energy Nuclear

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