Fusion Electricity in the Grid in our Lifetime! by FUSION ADVOCATES
The NEW ELECTRIC GENERATION will require masses more electricity than now forecast, and the only clean baseload source is magnetic Fusion.
Basic concept is to build a pilot scale fusion power plant to prove that fusion can produce net electric power. This SSTPP (Small-Scale Tokamak-based Power Plant) would use classical AT/ST technology similar to that of ITER, JET, Alcator and many others, but go that major step forward in actually producing electricity (others are only "heat machines"). Because creating the fusion reaction is itself energy-intensive it is not obvious that net electric power can be generated. But the odds are very promising: e.g. 1 kg of fusion fuel equals 10 million kg (yes, that's right!) of coal, in energy production - not counting the mining and transporting the coal and its ash.
There is no US project or strategy for Fusion Electricity (FE) production, as there is in China, Korea, Japan and the EU (in that order of real, practical present-day advancement). We can and must change that.
Category of the Action
Integrated action plan for the world as a whole
What actions do you propose?
It is clear that, on a world scale, the demand for electricity will grow at a rate undreamed of earlier. At present 15% of the world's inhabitants have never used electricity - not all of them ever will, but a large number will. At present, many developing countries have poor people who, in a decade or two, will be moving into lower-middle class status and demand electric cookers, refrigerators, computers, schools, etc., not to mention the changeover to electric cars, bikes and trucks as well as electric heating of all buildings, especially high-rise apartment houses as in Dubai and China now.
This New Electric Generation means clean electricity is a must; we cannot continue to destroy the earth with CO2, etc., at massive levels. We cannot support the daily death of coalminers or the probable collapse of some fracking sites. And we certainly cannot condone the elimination of a number of island nations, who, within two years from now may no longer exist (e.g. Kiribati, Maldives - and which are the canaries in the coal mine) due to climate change.
There is only one truly problem-free potential source of such clean electricity: fusion energy. Solar and wind have their places, and fossil fuels will continue to have roles to play, but baseload energy must come from non-fossil systems. Fusion is the only potential industrial-scale energy system, that would also create sufficient energy for water desalination and other technologies as yet undiscovered but which will depend on electricity.
FUSION ADVOCATES has identified and met numerous times with leaders of the fusion community worldwide; there is a near-unanimous view that the technology is nearly there, that it will happen sooner than later, that with proper funding and management it can be done, and done in the US. In order for the SSTPP to be built, the following initial steps must be taken:
- Define purpose and basic parameters for the SSTPP machine
- Identify potential sites for the facility
- A thorough costing study must be carried out
- Identify funding sources.
For step 1, we propose to gather four-six leading experts (already identified) from different institutions, bring them together for a day or two and knock out the definitions and basic parameters (already partially done).
For step 2, site characteristics (part of step 1's mandate) would be used to identify sites (we have already identified two ideal sites - one of which is in Massachusetts). "Characteristics" includes both technical (e.g. availability of very high power), cultural (will people be drawn to work there?), economic and other factors.
For step 3, once the basic parameters of the machine have been established, suppliers of components will be identified and visited by FA for detailed discussions for a costing exercise. These suppliers will be identified on a world scale, with preferences toward US firms but with no restriction.
Step 4 is perhaps the most controversial: FA believes that funding must come from the private sector only; no governmental funding (except possibly for local infrastructure and licensing) will be sought. This funding cannot be venture capital or corporate investment, as no money will be made for at least 20 years from fusion electricity plants. Thus, funding must come only from wealthy philanthropists. Ideally it would be 4-6 wealthy individuals each putting up $1.5-2 billion over a ten-year period. We have already begun this approach, but we need substantial assistance here.
Where will these actions be taken?
The initial meeting of experts will probably take place in Cambridge. The costing survey will be throughout the US and probably 10-15% in Europe and the Far East.
Building of the SSTPP will (probably) be in Massachusetts, at an ideal site already identified, and with whose directors we have already discussed the project. Materials and employees will come from all over the US where possible, but the world will no doubt supply some parts.
Who will take these actions?
We fully believe the US government is not to be involved; we know the personnel from the DoE and OFES - that's not the problem. Governments in general are fickle and unconcerned, and many, many problems with the ITER project are due to government intervention. Besides, electricity is a business.
We have spoken with leaders in the nuclear (fission) industry, and they are fully on our side but cannot at present justify investment.
Leaders in the fusion community from MIT, PPPL, Oak Ridge, General Atomics and others in the US as well as from the EU (and Switzerland) and the Middle East will participate. Not just the leaders, but many are from academic institutions and their students would join.
What are key benefits?
Unlimited clean energy with no effect on the environment or on the climate, is possible - and we need to prove that. Universally available raw materials and no possible catastrophic explosions or meltdowns and no political pressures on raw material sourcing are added benefits.
No organization in the US has any plan to prove net electricity can be made on a pilot scale from fusion, although numerous articles have touched the idea. Yet literally billions of €s have been committed to building a large-scale reactor in France; other new reactors are on the way (except in the US).
Proving that net electricity can be made (engineering Q>1.1) is the goal of the SSTPP project. Any engineer will first build a pilot plant before a major facility is considered
Other benefits are those which accrue to technologically demanding projects: spin-off opportunities for SMEs, trade benefits for sales of plants and licenses, and - not least - an ecologically positive image-building opportunity for the US.
What are the proposal’s costs?
There are three distinct stages of costing:
- Gathering experts and basic parameter definitions: US$ 25,000
- Costing survey: US$ 60,000
- Plant construction: US$ 7-8 billion over 8-10 years. During the first two years costs would be minimal, as no significant construction or equipment purchases will be made - this is the engineering phase, when all drawings, etc. would be finalized. Costs would be for a staff of 60 professionals doing this work. Once construction begins costs will probably exceed US$ 1 billion per year.
As noted above, the overall project would take 8-10 years to construct the SSTPP. The initial portion (gathering of experts) would require about 6 weeks for coordination, etc., and the second (costing survey) would require 4-5 months. For the main project, the design and engineering drawings phase (up to finalization and freezing the design) would require two years, during which time there would also be research work on outstanding problems identified in the first portion. Construction of the machine would then commence and be completed within 6-8 years.
How do these sub-proposals fit together?
Explanation of model inputs
- Fusion happens (has been demonstrated in labs throughout the world; in particular PPPL and JET, but others as well)
- 150-200 million degree plasma temperatures can be achieved and maintained over long periods (demonstrated at MIT and many other labs)
- Superconducting magnets are available and reliable
- Materials are adequate but improved neutron resistance would be better
- Heating, cooling and vacuum systems will improve, but are already suitable
- Deuterium will be commercially available, and tritium breeding, handling and storage will be under control. Lithium is already commercially available
Best reference would be Prof. Dennis Whyte of MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). Others can be listed after clearing with the individuals.