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Nuclear fusion can't come soon enough

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Nuclear fusion has long been considered the holy grail of clean energy. Today in California, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger are set to dedicate a $3.5 billion facility, one that aims at bringing fusion closer to commercial reality. From the Sustainability Desk, here's Marketplace's Sam Eaton.


Sam Eaton: It's called the National Ignition Facility. This stadium-sized building at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab houses the world's largest laser. Scientists hope to use that laser to ignite a miniature fusion reaction, the same that occurs at the center of the sun.

If it works, fusion could become a potential game changer in the quest for abundant, carbon-free energy. But Matthew Bunn, an energy policy expert at Harvard, says there's one small problem:

Matthew Bunn: We can't afford to wait for fusion.

He says even if the experiment works, fusion power plants on a commercial scale are still decades away. And Bunn says that's too late to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Bunn: We're going to have to have a huge investment in carbon-free energy that comes on long before fusion becomes available to be part of that picture.

Fusion is also much more expensive compared to other alternative energy sources like solar and wind. And Bunn says the fear is that fusion projects could divert funding away from these proven technologies.

In Los Angeles, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.
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agreed with M.Simon on this one. R.Nebel at LosAlamos has a peer-reviewed polywell fusion prototype which has demonstrated feasabillity. Within 2 yrs we will have a "yes, it works", or "no, it doesnt work so lets drop it and move on".. no waiting around for 50 - 100 years just to find out if it works. Oh, btw, if in 2 yrs the answer is a "yes, the polywell works", the things are so damm simple to build(compared to reactors based on other approaches), that power-plant replacements to the polywell system will be in fast-forward....

The Polywell Fusion Reactor hardly gets any news and yet the researchers in New Mexico expect a yes or no answer in two years or less.

Fusion energy is an interesting topic. I recently watched a program on the joint effort made by many countries to produce a fusion reaction. However, the problems that they were running into related to sustaining the temperatures that were required for fusion to take place. However, they were able to generate plasma and to control the positioning of the plasma. So I guess that coupled with what the new laser in California, we are finally on the right trail to fusion. Kids take note of blogs and news posts on fusion as they will help you to develop <a href="http://www.super-science-fair-projects.com">great energy science fair projects</a>.

I disagree with the so called fusion expert. History teaches us that if we believed and agreed to the so called experts in the past we would not have the developments that we have today. I call them the pessimist than an expert. We need to work on fusion to meet the energy needs of the future. If this technology is not available then we have a bigger problem of enviornmental disaster for future than what we are tackling today.

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