The U.S. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory kicked off its year-end Go-Fund-Me drive last week announcing a nuclear fusion breakthrough.
“The fusion energy breakthrough by US scientists boosts clean power hopes. Net energy gain indicates technology could provide an abundant zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.”
–Financial Times, December 11, 2022
These claims are nonsense. The Wall Street Journal called the fusion announcement nuclear fusion hype noting that nuclear power stations are at best decades away.
The experiment used lasers to put 1.8 megajoules (MJ) of energy in and got 2.5 MJ out – proving that energy can be successfully released and gained by a Deuterium-Tritium fusion reaction. Unfortunately, they had to use 500 MJ of energy into the lasers so the EROI was 0.005. That’s the worst net energy ratio ever.
No electricity was produced in the experiment. The energy released was mostly waste heat.
But the announcement was timed to support a huge funding measure by the U.S. Congress:
“I’m…proud to announce…the highest-ever authorization of over $624 million this year in the National Defense Authorization Act for the ICF [Inertial Confinement Fusion] program to build on this amazing breakthrough.”
–U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer
Let’s suppose for a moment that this experiment proves that fusion is now a commercially viable new source of energy.
Building fusion nuclear power stations for the country is a big project and big projects take time. If, for example, there were full funding and permits to build a major new airport, it would take about nine years to complete.
“Building a major nuclear site with the handling of radioactive waste would make things many times harder. For an experimental and totally unproven nuclear technology like fusion, the problems are nearly insurmountable and would require decades at a minimum.”
–Thomas Overton, nuclear scientist and publisher of PowerMag
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