Andy Cobley, writing for the Good News Network, states that a Canadian Startup is to Build a $400M UK Plant to Harness Nuclear Fusion in an Entirely New Cost-Effective Way. Why is no one in the mainstream media covering this? Would it hurt their doom and gloom climate apocalypse coverage’s ability to generate rage clicks?
A Canadian nuclear fusion power company has garnered a $400 million investment to build a demonstration energy plant in the UK. They will showcase their proprietary method for generating electricity through the fusion of hydrogen atoms in the hopes of attracting private investors that can kickstart the last great revolution in energy technology.
And this couldn’t come at a better time. Such a technology would make coal and gas fired power plants obsolete and eliminate the need to build new nuclear fission power plants, which, although they don’t emit any CO2, do produce radioactive waste in the form of spent rods that need to be carefully disposed of.
The Fusion Demonstration Plant will verify that General Fusion’s MTF technology can create fusion conditions in a practical and cost-effective manner at power plant relevant scales, as well as refine the economics of fusion energy production, leading to the subsequent design of a commercial fusion pilot plant.
So its a proof of concept.
A field that twenty years ago was exclusively the domain of government-funded research has blossomed into a budding private industry rapidly growing in size, variation, and opportunity.
Awesome. When there is only a single approach, like the massive Tokamak type plants being experimented with in the US and Europe, there is more chance of a scalable solution being delayed or failing to emerge entirely.
While the Massachusetts-based Commonwealth Fusion Systems uses enormous superconducting magnets, and the inter-governmental fusion program called ITER uses magnets as heavy as passenger aircraft and cooled by the world’s largest cryogenic freezer, Canada’s General Fusion company uses much more modest and cheaper existing technology in the form of steam-powered pneumatic pistons.
Interesting. The ITER program seeks to build a Tokamak type plant.
The fusion requires temperatures of at least 100 million Celsius, and existing fusion technologies are struggling to find a way to keep the plasma at that temperature for long periods. For other methods and companies, it’s not a question of “can we generate electricity from fusion,” or even one of “can we keep the plasma heated to generate electricity continuously,” but “how can we generate more electricity than we use?”
These challenges are why fusion has been nothing more than a promising technology since the 1950s.
General Fusion has focused on commercializing the technology which, for example, cost ITER over $20 billion for a prototype.
The next Tokamak prototype, DEMO, is being built in Europe and was originally expected to be complete in 2020.
Instead of using magnets to heat and contain the plasma, General Fusion uses a plasma injector—a separate machine—to create a plasma under more economic conditions, and inject it into the fusion reactor’s main chamber.
Economic here is referring to how much less expensive the equipment to create the plasma is than the Tokomak. Efficiency of plasma generation is also incredibly important. The less energy used to heat the plasma, the easier it is to surpass the break even point.
Inside the chamber is a spinning wall of liquid lithium, which is compressed into a tiny sphere by the pistons. The compression heats the plasma to fusion temperatures, releasing huge amounts of heat, which the liquid metal absorbs easily. It is that heat that is exacted to create steam, which is used to power a turbine, which creates electricity with only helium as the waste product.
The Tokamak uses ceramic tiles cooled by liquid lithium to absorb the heat of the reaction. It’s interesting that lithium, a fairly rare earth, is vital storage and, if either approach to fusion is successful, generation as well.
Christofer Mowry, CEO of General Fusion, predicts the fusion market to be worth $1 trillion in the next decade.
I wouldn’t bank on his timelines. Let’s hope that he’s right.
One of the best parts of fusion is it’s completely safe, as there’s no radioactive anything, and helium is the only byproduct. While 100 million Celsius seems dangerous, “if you were to blow on this thing, it just turns itself off,” Dennis Whyte, a Canadian scientist who is director of plasma science fusion center at MIT, explained to the Financial Post.
Helium is actually a useful byproduct, and is in short supply worldwide. For example, helium is essential in the manufacture of semiconductors. The reaction also produces heavy isotopes of water, which are fairly safe and are fed back in to the reactor, and consumes small amounts of the lithium used to capture the energy.
Furthermore, it uses a tiny amount of fuel, which is just seawater anyway. One cup of it would generate enough electricity to take care of the power usage of one human for their entire lifetime, and just 70 grams of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium captured during the fusion reaction is enough to power a small city.
And this is why we’ve been chasing the dream of fusion power for seventy years. Once it arrives, natural gas will likely be relegated to heating houses and powering non-electric vehicles like transport trucks and farm vehicles. As more capacity is built, there may be sufficient electricity to use some of it to produce hydrogen, which could then be used in place of natural gas in its remaining applications.