Why Choice of Fuels Will Determine if Fusion Works

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High energy neutrons are hard on a fusion reactor vessel. The private nuclear fusion startup Helion Energy is building an aneutronic reactor that will cost a tiny fraction of the huge costly ITER tokamak reactor in Europe. And perhaps because of Helion’s choice of reactor fuel, the company is likely to achieve commercial fusion far sooner than ITER. Perhaps as soon as 2024. The following video explains the choices involved:

Real Engineering

The Helion fusion reactor has many unique features that are being tested and perfected in successive iterations of the design:

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Helion’s reactor will produce electricity in a novel way. Rather than using heat to boil water to drive steam turbines, Helion will produce electricity directly from the magnetic field effects of the charged particle products of the reactor.

(3) Direct electricity generation. Most power generators work by producing heat. The heat turns water into high-pressure steam, which then drives a turbine. Within the turbine, electricity is generated by Faraday’s law, as a moving magnetic field induces a current in stator coils of the turbine (see our note below for a primer on power-electronics). However, a linear reactor containing can exploit Faraday’s law directly. Plasma particles are electro-magnetically charged. So as they expand, they will also induce a current. Some online sources have suggested 95% of the energy released from the plasmas could be converted to electricity, versus c40% in a typical turbine.

Unique Features of Helion’s Fusion Reactor

The following video is another recent look at Helion. It is also an easy to understand introduction to the concept of controlled nuclear fusion.

Electric Future

Helion is not a new company, but the two videos above reveal that the company is not sitting on its laurels but is continuing to move forward — in incremental iterations. The company has some high profile investors who will keep a close eye on progress.

Can Nuclear Fusion Save Germany?

Germany is on a collision course with reality, and it is not clear whether the country will survive under current management. The insanity of Germany’s national energy policy over the past 20 years is becoming ever more clear. The screaming irony of Germany’s plight is that German politicians and German journalists still seem to believe that Germany can “unicorn” its way out of its energy crisis by building ever more wind turbines and solar arrays. Such a belief is the equivalent of telling the captain of the Titanic that if he could only hit a few more icebergs, he could save the ship!

Germany was pretending that its massive investments in wind & solar energy projects were paying off, while behind the scenes the country was developing a fatal dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports. The only persons benefiting from this deception were the politically connected developers of the wasteful and destructive wind & solar developments — each new project eating up valuable resources that should have gone toward electric power generation projects that actually worked and made Germany’s grid stronger and the country less reliant on a geopolitical enemy.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine brings Germany’s (and Europe’s) folly to the public eye. Tens of millions of freezing Germans will begin to realize that their leaders have been lying to them.

A working version of commercial nuclear fusion that was safe and affordable, might make the difference between a Germany that goes down in flames, and a Germany that prospers long into the future (at least until it runs out of people).

Problems with ITER Compared with Promising Fusion Startups

The above video is a useful comparison of 5 different approaches to fusion energy including Helion.

Top 10 Fusion Startups

Nuclear fusion is still a longshot dark horse candidate for saving advanced human societies from the new dark ages that would be assured by a growing dependency on wind & solar and other intermittent unreliable energy sources.

But some of the world’s best known billionaire investors are putting their money behind the fusion startup companies. Other private wealthy investors are backing advanced fission startups.

New plants could be powered entirely with spent nuclear fuel sitting at plant sites across the country, built at a lower cost than LWRs and shut down more easily in an emergency.

Third Way

Germany is dying because it chose a foolish and corrupt pathway to national energy policy. Other countries need to take heed and plan more rationally.

Nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are the most rational long term sources for commercial power and heat. Human societies have known this for several decades, but have allowed themselves to become entangled in trendy political debates that have delayed the needed research and development of these critical technologies in a dangerous manner.

As a result, most of the world remains dependent on dirty coal generation of electric power and heat, and will continue to be reliant on that relatively dirty fuel indefinitely until human decision makers in the advanced world gain both the wisdom and courage to make the hard decisions that will facilitate the move to safe, clean, advanced nuclear and an abundant and expansive human future.

Nations with high power consumption and advanced critical infrastructures cannot survive on intermittent and unreliable, low quality energy sources such as wind & solar. Only corrupt liars and fools would maintain otherwise.

Clear Energy Alliance
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1 Response to Why Choice of Fuels Will Determine if Fusion Works

  1. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay and commented:
    Only in a utopian vacuum

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