Hot Fusion Heats Up

Hot fusion might be closer to reality than some of its critics think, but still facing some problems News stories indicate that two important hot fusion milestones might be achieved in the near future.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France is scheduled to begin generating hot plasma by December 2025, Wall Street Pit reported. Plasma is the super-hot liquid that makes fusion possible. The ITER is an $18 billion (€17.05 billion) multinational effort to prove that the Tokamak fusion reactor is a practical means of producing power.

The December 2025 date is not set in stone, there’s a strong possibility that the ITER might start producing plasma much sooner. Its administrators might be using the old public relations and customer service strategy of under-promise and over-deliver.

They might think the ITER can produce hot plasma much sooner but they are not sure. Therefore they mention a date that’s several years out, so if the reactor starts producing lasma in 2019 it will be pleasant surprise rather than a disappointment.

British Company Claims to have Working Fusion Reactor

Ironically enough a British startup company might have beaten the ITER to the punch.

“The UK’s newest fusion reactor has been turned on for the first time and has officially achieved first plasma,” a press release from Tokamak Energy claims. “The reactor aims to produce a record-breaking plasma temperature of 100 million degrees for a privately-funded venture.”

Tokamak’s engineers hope to achieve temperatures of 100 million degrees centigrade next year in 2018, the press release indicates. That temperature is necessary to achieve fusion or temperatures of 15 million degrees – as hot as the center of the sun.

Tokamak is using high-temperature superconductors as magnets in an attempt to build a smaller and cheaper fusion reactor. Magnets are needed to contain the plasma because it can burn through almost any material. This seems to prove MIT Professor Dennis Whyte’s claim that it will be possible to achieve commercial hot fusion with off the shelf technology in a decade.

Details of Lockheed Martin’s Hot Fusion Device available

Some details of the hot fusion device the American defense and aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is experimenting with are available.

The reactor will be 18 meters (59.0511 feet) long, seven meters (22.96959 feet) wide and weigh 2,000 tons, Britain’s Daily Mail reported. That’s a lot bigger than the original specifications released in 2014 which were 20 tons. That would be about the size of the fission reactors used on nuclear submarines.

The Mail based its claims based on a blog entry compiled by Dr. Matthew J. Moynihan a self-proclaimed nuclear fusion evangelist. If Moynihan’s claims are true the Lockheed device would be ideal for ships and power plants but is not a compact fusion reactor as claimed.

Hot fusion might be close but it is not going to be cheap or simple which limit its commercial applications. Perhaps we need to invest in more research on alternatives such as fuel cells and low energy nuclear reaction (LENR).