Australian news, and some related international items

Thermonuclear Fusion

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bank of America, investors, thrilled and delighted with the nuclear arms race

Above: Banks investing in nuclear weapons

These 3 stocks will benefit from the nuclear arms race – Bank of America

Stock Markets  (Dec 20, 2022,

The U.S. defense stocks are likely to continue outperforming the market, thanks to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and a potential conflict in Taiwan, according to Bank of America analysts.

One particular area of the defense sector to be monitored closely is the one focused on the development of nuclear weapons.

“We expect concerns of nuclear proliferation to drive secular and governmental defense spending, particularly as the US moves away from nation-state conflicts, like in the Middle East, and focuses attention on near-peer threats. We expect US defense companies to see much of the upside from increased demand for nonstrategic nuclear weapons,” the analysts said in a client note……………….

As Europe lacks the industrial footprint the US has cultivated, we expect that US defense primes will be called upon to fill demand, reflecting a significant upside to these names,” they added.

Along these lines, the analysts see Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) benefiting from the increased demand as these three have the largest nuclear operations.

“This reinforces our Buy rating on Northrop Grumman. We remain Neutral on Boeing and Lockheed Martin on account of continued supply chain challenges and operational hurdles,” the analysts concluded.–bank-of-america-432SI-2747010

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Despite the hype, we shouldn’t bank on nuclear fusion to save the world from climate catastrophe

Robin McKie,
Last week’s experiment in the US is promising, but it’s not a magic bullet for our energy needs

“……..  For almost half a century, I have reported on scientific issues and no decade has been complete without two or three announcements by scientists claiming their work would soon allow science to recreate the processes that drive the sun. The end result would be the generation of clean, cheap nuclear fusion that would transform our lives.

Such announcements have been rare recently, so it gave me a warm glow to realise that standards may be returning to normal. By deploying a set of 192 lasers to bombard pellets of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, researchers at the US National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California, were able to generate temperatures only found in stars and thermonuclear bombs. The isotopes then fused into helium, releasing excess energy, they reported.

It was a milestone event but not a major one, although this did not stop the US government and swaths of the world’s media indulging in a widespread hyping jamboree over the laboratory’s accomplishment. Researchers had “overcome a major barrier” to reaching fusion, the BBC gushed, while the Wall Street Journal described the achievement as a breakthrough that could herald an era of clean, cheap energy.

It is certainly true that nuclear fusion would have a beneficial impact on our planet by liberating vast amounts of energy without generating high levels of carbon emissions and would be an undoubted boost in the battle against climate change.

The trouble is that we have been presented with such visions many times before. In 1958, Sir John Cockcroft claimed his Zeta fusion project would supply the world with “an inexhaustible supply of fuel”. It didn’t. In 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced they had achieved fusion using simple laboratory equipment, work that made global headlines but which has never been replicated.

To this list you can also add the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter), a huge facility being built in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance in Provence, France, that was supposed to achieve fusion by 2023 but which is over 10 years behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget.

In each case, it was predicted that the construction of the first commercially viable nuclear fusion plants was only a decade or two away and would transform our lives. Those hopes never materialised and have led to a weary cynicism spreading among hacks and scientists. As they now joke: “Fusion is 30 years away – and always will be.”

It was odd for Jennifer Granholm, the US energy secretary, to argue that the NIF’s achievement was “one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century”. This is a hard claim to justify for a century that has already witnessed the discovery of the Higgs boson, the creation of Covid-19 vaccines, the launch of the James Webb telescope and the unravelling of the human genome. By comparison, the ignition event at the NIF is second-division stuff.

Most scientists have been careful in their responses to the over-hyping of the NIF “breakthrough”. They accept that a key step has been taking towards commercial fusion power but insist such plants remain distant goals. They should not be seen as likely saviours that will extract us from the desperate energy crisis we now face – despite all the claims that were made last week.

Humanity has brought itself to a point where its terrible dependence on fossil fuels threatens to trigger a 2C jump in global temperatures compared with our pre-industrial past. The consequences will include flooding, fires, worsening storms, rising sea levels, spreading diseases and melting ice caps.

Here, scientists are clear. Fusion power will not arrive in time to save the world. “We are still a way off commercial fusion and it cannot help us with the climate crisis now,” said Aneeqa Khan, a research fellow in nuclear fusion at Manchester University. This view was backed by Tony Roulstone, a nuclear energy researcher at Cambridge University. “This result from NIF is a success for science, but it is still a long way from providing useful, abundant clean energy.”

At present, there are two main routes to nuclear fusion. One involves confining searing hot plasma in a powerful magnetic field. The Iter reactor follows such an approach. The other – adopted at the NIF facility – uses lasers to blast deuterium-tritium pellets causing them to collapse and fuse into helium. In both cases, reactions occur at more than 100 million C and involve major technological headaches in controlling them.

Fusion therefore remains a long-term technology, although many new investors and entrepreneurs – including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos – have recently turned their attention to the field, raising hopes that a fresh commercial impetus could reinvigorate the development of commercial plants.

This input is to be welcomed but we should be emphatic: fusion will not arrive in time to save the planet from climate change. Electricity plants powered by renewable sources or nuclear fission offer the only short-term alternatives to those that burn fossil fuels. We need to pin our hopes on these power sources. Fusion may earn its place later in the century but it would be highly irresponsible to rely on an energy source that will take at least a further two decades to materialise – at best.

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion – expensive, far away in time, and not clean, not safe

Nuclear fusion ‘holy grail’ is not the answer to our energy prayers, Dr Mark Diesendorf questions the claim that nuclear fusion is safe and clean, while Dr Chris Cragg suspects true fusion power is a long way off.

You [The Guardian] report on the alleged “breakthrough” on nuclear fusion, in which US researchers claim that break-even has been achieved (Breakthrough in nuclear fusion could mean ‘near-limitless energy’, 12 December). To go from break-even, where energy output is greater than total energy input, to a commercial nuclear fusion reactor could take at least 25 years. By then, the whole world could be powered by safe and clean renewable energy, primarily solar and wind.

The claim by the researchers that nuclear fusion is safe and clean is incorrect. Laser fusion, particularly as a component of a fission-fusion hybrid reactor, can produce neutrons that can be used to produce the nuclear explosives plutonium-239, uranium-235 and uranium-233. It could also produce tritium, a form of heavy hydrogen, which is used to boost the explosive power of a fission explosion, making fission bombs smaller and hence more suitable for use in missile warheads. This information is available in open research literature.

The US National Ignition Facility, which did the research, is part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which has a history of involvement with nuclear weaponry. – Dr Mark Diesendorf
University of New South Wales

As someone who once wrote a critical report for the European parliament on fusion power back in the late 1980s, I hate to rain on Arthur Turrell’s splendid parade (The carbon-free energy of the future: this fusion breakthrough changes everything, 13 December).

It is indeed good news that the US National Ignition Facility has got a “net energy gain” of 1.1 MJ from an inertial confinement fusion device using lasers. In this regard, what is really valuable is that the community can now concentrate on this type of reactor, rather than other designs like the tokamak.

However, I am prepared to bet that a true fusion power station is unlikely to be running before my grandchildren turn 70. After all, it has taken 60-odd years and huge amounts of money to get this far.
Dr Chris Cragg

Arthur Turrell writes that achieving “net energy gain” has a psychological effect akin to a trumpet to the ear. Well, it might do to him but not to me. Yes, it’s a fantastic achievement for those scientists and engineers who have worked to achieve this proof on concept; well done them. But it will make not one jot of a positive difference to the challenges my children and grandchildren will face as a result of the climate crisis.

We only have years to achieve the changes that are necessary to avoid social catastrophe due to what’s happening to the biosphere, and that’s assuming it’s not already too late. Even the optimists understand that it will be decades before fusion power can contribute to the grid, regardless of this achievement.

Meanwhile the headlines that followed this result, Turrell’s psychological trumpet, simply serve to reassure and detract from the urgency of what needs to be done now.
Dick Willis

It is great news that scientists have succeeded in getting more energy out of fusion than they put in. It brings to mind a quote from a past director of the Central Electricity Generating Board: “One day you may get more energy out of nuclear fusion than you put in, but you will never get more money out than you put in.”
Martin O’Donovan
Ashtead, Surrey

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Historic’ agreement reached at UN conference to halt biodiversity loss by 2030

‘Historic’ agreement reached at UN conference to halt biodiversity loss by 2030

The global framework comes on the day the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, is set to end in Montreal.

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CEFC jumps back into solar market as cost hikes put 82 pct renewable target at risk — RenewEconomy

CEFC makes biggest project finance deal for large scale solar as it seeks to help renewables overcome economic headwinds The post CEFC jumps back into solar market as cost hikes put 82 pct renewable target at risk appeared first on RenewEconomy.

CEFC jumps back into solar market as cost hikes put 82 pct renewable target at risk — RenewEconomy

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fortescue signs deal to produce hydrogen-fuelled green steel — RenewEconomy

Fortescue signs another MoU to produce green steel on a commercial scale without burning fossil fuels. The post Fortescue signs deal to produce hydrogen-fuelled green steel appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Fortescue signs deal to produce hydrogen-fuelled green steel — RenewEconomy

December 20, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment