Ed Moses, “Clean Fusion Power This Decade”

Posted on Thursday, June 17th, 02010 by Danielle Engelman
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Ed Moses

Imminent fusion power

All the light we see from the sky, Moses pointed out, comes from fusion power burning hydrogen, the commonest element in the universe—3/4 of all mass. A byproduct of the cosmic fusion is the star-stuff that we and the Earth are made of.

On Earth, 4 billion years of life accumulated geological hydrocarbons, which civilization is now burning at a rate of 10 million years’ worth per year. In 1900, 98% of the world’s energy came from…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary and download the audio podcast here.

  • The key aspect of moving a fusion based energy economy is that it will enable us to move to hydrogen based fuel platform for cars. The current advocacy to move to electric cars is just not sustainable. I seriously doubt if there is enough lithium on this planet to convert all vehicles to battery power. Even if there is, the mining effort to access it brings its own destructive impacts to the environment. Then there is the issue of all of the associated TCO with battery manufacture and subsequent eventual disposal costs at the end of a battery’s usable life. Currently we cannot move to a hydrogen based fuel platform due to the high cost of the energy needed to produce and distribute hydrogen gas in high volumes. Fusion power plants will enable us to generate electricity at rates low enough to produce hydrogen at the volumes needed for operating all vehicles, thus enabling us to get off of petrol as the primary fuel.

  • Eric Saxby

    I’m curious how vital lithium will be in this type of fusion reaction, as well. The fuel is a mix of deuterium and tritium. Deuterium is stable, but tritium is extremely rare, with a half-life of 12 years. The internets also imply that one of the easiest way to generate tritium is to bombard lithium-6 with neutrons.

    So, perhaps you use lithium deuteride mixed in with other salts as the thermal exchange medium, and use that to generate H-3?

    Would that be your fuel limiter?

  • Eric – Your assumptions regarding tritium are correct. Tritium exists only in small quantities in nature, so a fusion energy power plant would need to create its own tritium fuel. The neutrons generated in the fusion reaction will be absorbed within a liquid salt blanket surrounding the fusion chamber to create a hot fluid that will finally turn a turbine to generate electricity. The salt will contain lithium, which will react with the fusion neutrons to produce helium and tritium. Due to neutron multiplication reactions, it is possible to make more than one triton (tritium nucleus) for each one consumed in fusion reactions — studies by both government agencies and industry have demonstrated that a tritium breeding ratio of 1.15 to 1.2 is readily achievable in an inertial confinement fusion reactor — creating a net positive generation of tritium. This tritium is then sent to the target factory to be used to produce new targets.

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