You know, I’d dearly love fusion power to be a commercial reality. Partly because it could solve an awful lot of problems, but mostly because it’s just plain cool. And it’d be a last hurrah for our technological mastery over nature driving our future, before we really had to buckle down and accept that we can’t do things that way any more.
So I’m pleased to see that Japan’s JT-60 tokamac has sustained plasma for over 28 seconds. That’s impressive, and it bodes well for Iter, the forthcoming international reactor that’s due to be operational near Aix-en-Provence by – da-da-daaaaa! – 2016.
This, note, is exactly the same project that I first heard about in lectures in 1989. Note also that Iter is not intended to produce any actual power – that’s for the next stage.
There used to be a joke about fusion power: ‘commercial nuclear fusion is thirty years away. Always has been, always will be.’ I wonder sometimes if that timescale is stretching. I also wonder if their construction planning includes provision for the oil running out.
Now there’s a thought – is it possible for humanity to reach a position where we know how to build a tokamac power station, but we don’t have the means to do so because we’ve run out of precursor energy sources? So we have to wait for reforestation, then reinvent the traction engine, and only then can we build the shiny new fusion plant.