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Nuclear fusion – if it ever works – will be far too late to affect climate change

Fusion start-ups hope to revolutionize energy in the coming decades  With the help of venture capital funding and new technologies, a cadre of companies want to commercialize fusion energy in the next 20 years, Science News,   by Katherine Bourzac, AUGUST 6, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 32

“……..A multinational, multi-billion-dollar, multidecade project called ITER promises to demonstrate net energy production from nuclear fusion after its reactor turns on in 2025. (Iter means “the way” in Latin; the project was originally called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.) But the ITER design is not scalable—it’s far too large and expensive to serve as a power plant on the electrical grid. Instead, it’s designed to give partner countries the research tools they need to start building practical fusion reactors sometime in 2055 at the earliest.

That’s far too late, some researchers say, especially in the face of climate change. “We need fusion energy to be deployable at a scale of tens of gigawatts at many power plants in the 2030s to tackle carbon emissions,” says David Kingham, executive vice chair of Tokamak Energy, a fusion start-up in Oxfordshire, England.

This dream of clean, abundant energy from nuclear fusion has been echoing in basement labs like the one at MIT since the 1950s. But since that time, no one has yet shown that a fusion reactor can produce more energy than it consumes—let alone run stably for years or decades………

fusion entrepreneurs and the deep-pocketed investors who are sponsoring them are seeing green. “Fusion has been undervalued by governments. It’s long term. It’s speculative. But the upside is huge,” Greenwald, the deputy director of the MIT center and a cofounder of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, says. “There’s trillions of dollars to be made. There’s trillions of watts of additional demand coming,” says Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies in Foothill Ranch, Calif.

Still, there are skeptics who think these start-up companies’ promises are unreasonable—at least on the aggressive time frames they’re promising. And some of the companies, skeptics say, are working on designs that physicists have deemed not ready for the grid anytime soon, while neglecting practical issues such as how to build reactors resilient enough to withstand the intense heat produced during fusion……..

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August 8, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology

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