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New type of nuclear fusion plan, but the reality is as far away as ever

Skunk Works’ Exotic Fusion Reactor Program Moves Forward With Larger, More Powerful DesignThis will be the company’s fifth major design iteration as it pushes ahead toward building a potentially revolutionary practical prototype.  The Drive, BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK, JULY 19, 2019,   Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is building a new, more capable test reactor as it continues to move ahead with its ambitious Compact Fusion Reactor program, or CFR. Despite slower than expected progress, the company remains confident the project can produce practical results, which would completely transform how power gets generated for both military and civilian purposes……

The CFR program is built around new patented reactor design, which The War Zone has explored in detail in the past, that uses superconducting coils to more effectively generate a magnetic field to contain the heat and pressure of the reaction. Lockheed Martin’s hope is that this will overcome challenges that have relegated nuclear fusion power generation to the realm of experimentation since the first concepts emerged in the 1920s.

Since then, teams in various countries have built functional fusion reactors, but they remain large, inefficient, and expensive. Last year, China touted progress on its Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), but without highlighting that this reactor is situated inside a two-story building within the Dongpu Science Island, a large research campus on a lakeshore peninsula in China’s Anhui Province. An international consortium also hopes to have the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) up and running in France in 2021, but this reactor will weigh approximately 23,000 tons.

Containing the reaction, the same one that occurs in our sun and other stars, and doing so for a protracted period of time, remains the biggest hurdle. Nuclear fusion creates temperatures of hundreds of millions of degrees Fahrenheit, which, in turn, also generate extremely high pressures inside the reactor vessel. The energy from fusion reactions can be so powerful that countries have already weaponized it in the form of hydrogen bombs. …….

Unfortunately, despite the progress that Skunk Works has made, many questions remain about whether its new reactor concept will be able to succeed whether other designs have failed. Lockheed Martin has initially suggested it might have a viable prototype ready this year or the next.

By 2017, that schedule had gotten pushed back to sometime in the mid-2020s. In his interview with Aviation Week, Babione did not offer any more of a specific timeline for when a practical reactor, which the company refers to as TX, might be ready…….

July 22, 2019 - Posted by | technology

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