Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear fusion is an expensive delusion

Nuclear fusion is an expensive delusion – so of course this government
is right behind it. It’s time to redirect the billions being squandered
in fusion energy and invest in solutions to the climate crisis that
actually work.

Last week, there were headlines (again) about a “major
breakthrough” in the search for unlimited, cheap, carbon-free electricity
from nuclear fusion reactors. Breathless announcements suggested that the
UK’s 38-year-old JET Fusion programme had finally produced 11 megawatts
of heat energy for five seconds.

To the average person on the street that
sounded impressive. But it equates to the energy needed to boil a measly 60
kettles. Even more unimpressive, but a crucially important question that
the headlines missed, was: how much energy had to be put into the Jet
machine to get these 11 megawatts (MW) out?

So we decided to ask the UK Atomic Energy Agency (UK AEA), whose sole mission is to research and
produce a working fusion electricity plant and who carried out last
week’s experiment. The sad truth is that they admitted that they actually
had to put 40 MW of heat into the plasma to produce 11 MW of sustained
fusion heat for five seconds.

They added: “It is no secret JET uses a lot
of energy. It was designed in the 1970s with copper magnets and will soon
pass the baton to more energy-efficient experiments. After literally a
hundred years of research, since Arthur Eddington first postulated that
nuclear fusion could be the stellar energy source, and untold billions of
pounds invested by various governments ever since to try and replicate the
creation of a mini star on earth, we still cannot produce a single net kWh
of energy.

The fusion “industry” is always promising us unlimited clean
energy in two to three decades time, but the cruel truth is that despite
yet another annual flurry of “breakthrough” headlines, the fusion Holy
Grail remains as illusory as the Grail itself. Despite all these wasted
billions, Boris Johnson’s government, as part of its supposed “10 Point
Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”, stated: “Our ambition is to be
the first country to commercialise fusion energy, enabling low carbon and
continuous power generation.” It pledged another £222m for the spherical
tokamak programme which “aims” to build the world’s first
commercially viable fusion power plant by 2040, and another £184m to help
found a global hub for fusion innovation in the UK. But in response to an
excited BBC interviewer asking a fusion spokesperson when she might be able
to boil her kettle with fusion energy, they said possibly in the 2050s.

 Independent 19th Feb 2022

February 21, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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