Why is Nuclear Fusion Not Yet a Reality?

in news •  3 months ago

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Without going into the details of why nuclear fusion can, and likely would be, a significant, and even necessary, evolution in energy production - suffice to say that it's completion would be a net-positive for the global infrastructure - the above image offers one perspective on why we don't yet have a viable fusion reactor when many of the scientists related to that field have been predicting that it would be a reality "within the next 20 years", for going on well over 50 years!

The reason?

Too little cheese. A plate with too few clams. Crumbs, but no real cake. Insufficient dough to fill the tummies. Not enough bacon to bring home to the wifey.

...(Ahem)...

Not enough funding.

Apparently, the "fusion scientists in the 1970s" (to quote one of the commentors on the linked reddit thread) projected nuclear fusion to be completed by around 1990 with "maximum effective effort" funding levels, or around $9 billion per year peak funding (blue line on the chart). They projected a 2005 completion with even "moderate" funding.

Yet, here we are in 2018 and we're talking about the potential for a viable nuclear fusion reactor within the next 12 to 20 years and one would think that the significantly less than $1 billion per year funding (black line on the chart) over the course of the last 30+ years is at least partially to blame for this serious gap between the nuclear fusion expectations (back in the 70's) and its current reality.

More on this, and some other interesting facts about nuclear fusion, in the following educational, and surprisingly entertaining, video, courtesy of Joe Scott:

By all means, give the man a follow if ya dig what he's dishin'.

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I would imagine that the oil industry has quite a bit to do with the lack of funding for fusion research. Look how long it has taken for the improvement of and for mainstream use of solar technology for producing energy. We should most certainly have a viable hydrogen run car by now as well. Greed inhibits progress.

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Just to bad you can actually Google this part:

We should most certainly have a viable hydrogen run car by now as well.

These things were invented, filmed, inventor killed and put back into the freezer

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Yes, I am well aware of the many conspiracies to keep back technological progress through such practices..

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If I had venture a guess, I'd say you're 100% spot on with your speculation.

Greed does indeed inhibit growth. Thinking about it, there have likely been many instances where acting through sheer greed have brought about useful discoveries that helped us to leap forward in some way(s), but, yeah, predominantly inhibiting, for sure.

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That is in indeed true. Edison and his penchant for stealing and manufacturing other's discoveries is certainly an example of greed for progress, while in the same time period, the downfall of Nikola Tesla is a prime unfortunate example of greed inhibiting progress.

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Yes, nice examples.

In France there is a proyect already called ITER, it's planned to start functioning in 2025.

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Thanks for sharing. Here's to hoping that they're successful on that launch date and that everything goes smoothly.

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I hope that too, we will see. I have to say that the comments above are well exposed, there are many interests at the oil industry that slow our technologic development. If you guys are interested in alternative energies like solar, there is a very interesting proyect based on blockchain. Have a look to The Sun Exchange, it seems very promising. You have more information in this page ;)

https://thesunexchange.com/

Thanks for the upvote btw.

Interesting reflection on the role of greed in all this.

As one of the commentators says, there's been for years an European-funded effort to develop a commercial fusion reactor. There is a public "agency" (think NASA) called F4E (Fusion for Energy) located in Barcelona that oversees the efforts to build the ITER in France, on the Rhône valley at Cadarache, near a town called Saint-Paul-lez-Durance. If you go with Google Maps, the zone where it is being built is pixelized on purpose.

But... Europe doesn't have oil, is a big oil importer and the oil and gas lobby is not very powerful. So why hasn't Europe managed a commercial fusion reactor yet?

Here is where one reasonable hypothesis would be that, while too much greed inhibits progress, "no greed at all" is not necessarily good either. Because if you employ public servants to advance the science and industry, they will soon notice that

  • whatever mistakes they make are held against them and harm their careers
  • whereas whatever successes they score change not much because the merit is diluted by the "collective culture" (everybody contributed) and there are no bonuses to be had ...

So the safest choice is to ... not do much - if you don't do much you won't make mistakes at least. Public servants working in Barcelona and Cadarache get their salaries month after month whether the fusion reactor succeeds or not. ... so why take the risk of a botched launch or an accident?

Cadarache.PNG

So pure greed is not good.

But the key is to understand that if pure "A" (say greed) is BAD, it doesn't necessarily imply that "Not A" (say communism) is GOOD.

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Interesting perspective, @lux-witness. I think the hesitation that you speak about, regarding moving forward to the latter stages of innovation, definitely exists and perhaps it plays a larger role in postponing technological progress than many, or even most, of us would presume.

It's a bit unfortunate that the general population is so often at the mercy of the big risk-takers (the guys and gals with "big balls") when it comes to creating more optimal ways of living but it certainly seems to be the general way of things in this world, particularly when we consider innovations in technology/ science.

Here's to hoping that there's a man or woman out there with the right combination of intelligence and courage to go all the way through with this experiment in creating a safer and more efficient from of energy production. History warns us not to hold our breath, but it appears that we're FINALLY nearing a viable product that can be scaled world-wide.

Lot of technology is still needed to do it with precision there is a way to go