The Nuclear Fusion Delusion (Part One)

by | May 14, 2019 |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It seems like only yesterday that the senior author of this article (Dr. Lehr) was walking past Albert Einstein on the streets of Princeton, New Jersey, nodding to the great man and receiving a nod in return. It was not exactly yesterday, of course, but a frequent occurrence from 1953 to 1955 when I (Dr. Lehr) was a student at the university there.

In those days, Dr. Einstein spoke frequently about the forthcoming wonders of nuclear fusion energy. He predicted that its grand benefits would arrive about 50 years hence. Unfortunately, 50 years later, long after Dr. Einstein’s passing, most physicists still predicted that we would have to wait yet another 50 years before the generation of electricity through controlled nuclear fusion may be possible. That prediction has not changed much in the past decade.

We think it is time to back off on the highly costly research currently being conducted on fusion. In deference to Einstein, in the mid-1950s, we had yet to learn through experimentation about the huge obstacles that we now recognize. While 100s of billions of dollars have now been spent in the effort to prove Einstein correct, success is now unlikely.

While in all current nuclear reactors, which have operated since the 1950s, atoms are split to produce energy, nuclear fusion normally requires two hydrogen nuclei to fuse together leaving excess energy behind to harness. Our Sun is a massive nuclear fusion reactor. It works because it offers a tremendous gravitational force to apply pressure to the nuclei within, while they bombard each other in attempts to overcome the huge electrostatic repulsion resulting from their identical positive charges. Only when they do overcome this repulsion does the fusion occur that gives off excess energy.

On Earth, we are unable to replicate the pressure at the core of the Sun where fusion occurs, and so we must create temperatures of at least 100 million degrees Celsius, far hotter than in the Sun, to encourage fusion to occur. But the required confinement of the fusion has not been created economically. And, thus far, while a tiny amount of energy has been produced in a donut-shaped magnetic fusion container, called a tokamak, in CERN, Switzerland, years ago, the energy required to produce this energy has been vastly greater.

More than a dozen experiments are going on around the world. The largest tokamak in the world is in Oxfordshire, UK but the best funded has been ongoing for many years at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at Saint Paul-lez-Durance, France funded by the US, Russia, China, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, and India.

Dr. Daniel Jassby, writing in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on April 19, 2017 said that, after 25 years working on nuclear fusion experiments at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, “I began to look at the fusion enterprise more dispassionately in my retirement, concluding that a fusion reactor would be far from perfect, and in some ways close to the opposite.”

The real problem is attempting to scale down the reactions in the Sun which burns hydrogen at enormous temperature and density, sustained with unlimited time, creating benign reaction products, primarily helium. On Earth we have none of these conditions so, besides having to generate temperatures even hotter than the Sun, we must use heavier neutron-rich isotopes of hydrogen which are deuterium and tritium. While the former is readily available in sea water, the latter is only found in minute quantities in nature and so must be manufactured in a nuclear reactor.

The proponents of fusion reactors believe that their byproducts are totally harmless. However, fusion reactors that must burn neutron-rich isotopes have byproducts that, in Jassby’s words, are “anything but harmless.” The neutron stream generated in a fusion reactor leads to four problems including:

  • radioactive waste,
  • radiation damage to structures,
  • the need for biological shielding,
  • the potential for creating weapons grader plutonium.

Jassby says that the latter problem adds to “the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, not lessening it, as fusion proponents would have it.”

But these reactors, if ever brought on line, would also have many of the problems that have beset fission reactors, which include high coolant demands, large operating costs, and on-site power demands that would lessen the output of power made for sale.

In magnetic confinement fusion, the only practical solution available so far, electrical and magnetic fields are used to control the high temperature fusion fuel known as “plasma,” a difficult-to-control material consisting of free nuclei and electrons. Inertial confinement in a circular tunnel is required with laser beams used to squeeze and heat the plasma to the extreme temperatures mentioned earlier.

If we have your attention now, wait, there is more, much more that we will deal with on America Out Loud next week. The thought that fusion reactors will become an economical power source any time in the foreseeable future is a pipe dream.

NOTE: Technological advances may someday make the generation of electricity through controlled nuclear fusion possible. Through the use of high-speed computer technology, we are better able to control the magnetic field to hold the plasma for longer time frames, for example. Nevertheless, there are a myriad list of problems that make it improbable that fusion will ever be economic. We discuss these problems in part 2 of this article. 

Avatar

Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

Use the code ‘OUTLOUD’ and save 15%
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for educational, general information, and entertainment purposes only and is never intended to constitute medical or legal advice or to replace the personalized care of a primary care practitioner or legal expert.

While we endeavor to keep this information up to date and correct, the information provided by America Out Loud, its website(s), and any properties (including its radio shows and podcasts) makes no representations, or warranties of any kind, expressed, or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to its website(s) or the information, products, services or related graphics and images contained on the website(s) for any purpose.

The opinions expressed on the website(s), and the opinions expressed on the radio shows and podcasts, are the opinions of the show hosts and do not necessarily represent the opinions, beliefs, or policies of anyone or any entity we may endorse. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

At no time, nor in any event, will we be liable for any loss, or damage, including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss of data or profits arising out of, in an association of, or connection with the use of this website.

Through this website, users can link to other websites that may be listed. Those websites are not under the control of America Out Loud or its brands. We have no control over the nature, content, or availability of those sites. America Out Loud has no control over what the sites do with the information they collect. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation, nor does it endorse the views expressed with or by them.

Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, America Out Loud takes no responsibility for, nor are we, and will not be liable for being temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties beyond our control. America Out Loud does not sell, trade, nor market email addresses or other personal data.

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

The only way to achieve liberty and peace is to restore law and order. And the only way to restore law and order is to literally crush the forces of evil. When that begins to happen, we do actually see the positive side of tyranny and anarchy. Conflict is a bedfellow of oppression. Therefore we must end the conflict and, in doing so, end the tyranny. Here’s the positive side of this war…

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

The context is that about 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 develop post-COVID symptoms. Severe outpatients also are affected. Characteristic symptoms include headache, hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of olfactory function, sleep disturbance, muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, and chest or abdominal pain…

Be the One.

Be the One.

Be the one — no longer willing to huddle together in the helpless band — the one who dares to join the fight. Another will follow you and then another, and in a flash of time, that bleeding hulk of our nation — once the great light of liberty to the world, now barely flickering — will rise again to throw off the wolves like it has done before, sending them scurrying for safety…

Major Medical Mystery: Why Some People Despite Exposure Don’t Get COVID

Major Medical Mystery: Why Some People Despite Exposure Don’t Get COVID

A small fraction of Americans have escaped COVID infection. CDC uses a figure of 60% for those infected, while the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington says that 76% have been infected. The remainder may have escaped exposure or been exposed but escaped infection. The latter people are the subject of the medical mystery…

Correcting America’s Course Back to the Constitutional Rule of Law

Correcting America’s Course Back to the Constitutional Rule of Law

The US Constitution must scrupulously be followed, especially by the judiciary. It is not for judges to make laws; it is for them to observe and rule on the constitutionality of issues before them. Their oaths, taken upon their confirmations, should include the understanding that their failures to follow judicial protocols would end in their termination…

Does Joe Biden Aspire to be America’s Last President?

Does Joe Biden Aspire to be America’s Last President?

Most ominously, no American administration has ever seemed so entirely unconcerned about hemorrhaging political capital. And that lack of concern about voters’ approval can only mean that this administration no longer believes it relies on political capital (the consent of the governed) for power. We can only assume that this Marxist-aligned administration intends to authorize itself with whatever power it requires to achieve its ends…

Criminal Intimidation Led By Schumer and Pelosi are America’s Domestic Terrorists

Criminal Intimidation Led By Schumer and Pelosi are America’s Domestic Terrorists

The SCOTUS leak was explicitly designed to tip the balance back to Progressivisms demands and rally the Democrat base to intimidate conservatives, political and business leaders by threats of violence because the country is in a Biden mess, one he created in January 2021 to reflect his party’s image as one that clings to the failed philosophy of Marx and Engles…

Pennsylvania Races Plunge to Swampy Politics 

Pennsylvania Races Plunge to Swampy Politics 

The establishment has money and counts itself as power brokers. They love the status quo, the “don’t rock the boat” mentality. They pronounce, “This is our guy!” and expect the masses to get in line. However, many are standing up and deciding to vote conscience over party or affiliation – regardless. But aren’t those the same “stand up” attitude and actions that formed this great nation?

The Ignorance of Politicians Wishing for a Non-Carbon Future is Insane

The Ignorance of Politicians Wishing for a Non-Carbon Future is Insane

Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) seems unaware that in a “non-carbon future,” everything would be dead since carbon is the primary building block of life. Undeterred, the AP release from Beyer’s office claimed: “Warmer temperatures are lowering workers’ incomes, and the increased severity and frequency of natural disasters is lowering overall economic growth…The cost of inaction will be catastrophic.”

America Out Loud 6 years

Celebrating 6 incredible years fighting to restore liberty and justice to our beloved America.

Your Source for Free Speech, Talk Radio, Podcasts, and News.

 

Here we take on the challenges of our generation so that we can preserve future generations. Please consider making a contribution in the fight for liberty!

iHeartRadio

The APPS are free; the mission is priceless!

Free APP
Healthycell

Podcast Networks

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Spotify
Pandora
Tunein
iHeart
Stitcher

Subscribe and Listen on Your Favorite APP

Our Columnists and Show Hosts

Truth For Health

Apple Podcasts

COVID Solution Summit

Apple Podcasts

Evacuating Americans & fully-vetted Afghan's at Risk - Help Us!

Apple Podcasts

Empowering and mentoring conservative trailblazers from Generation Z to win!

Apple Podcasts

Turning Point Action is Recruiting Precinct Chairs - Become a Grassroots Warrior Today!

Apple Podcasts

URGENT - KEEP NINE
Please join us to protect the Supreme Court:
Sign the Petition!

Apple Podcasts

The LATINO USA EXIT from the Democrat Party, click for details...

Apple Podcasts

Fighting corporate censorship and ensuring voter integrity...

Apple Podcasts

Support wounded and fallen police officers. The Wounded Blue.

Wounded Blue
Share via
Copy link