Fusion is the Future

Added foreword

Boris Johnson is no longer PM of the UK, but fusion disinformation continues unabated.

The UK Government’s Spring 2022 UK’s Public Attitudes Survey includes questions on fusion energy, as though it is in any way relevant to our current energy needs, or even in the near future; this is weird. 16% claim to know ‘a lot’ or ‘ a fair amount’ about fusion energy, yet 48% ‘strongly support’ or ‘support’ it. It seems that supporting things one doesn’t have a clue about is the new politics! 

Needless to say, the same survey shows overwhelming support for renewables. 85% support or strongly support. 79% agree that ‘It’s important that renewable energy developments provide direct benefit to the communities in which they are located’. This is another aspect of renewables that contrasts so greatly with fusion: It can scale to local, regional and national scale, and so is not in the hands of a few. It is also  understood by the populace. Energy democracy is key to a just transition in energy policy and implementation.

I have not changed the essay as I still stand by every word, but I have added two rather good and accessible resources produced by two physicists who have critiqued the hype on fusion energy: Michael de Podesta and Sabine Hossenfelder, whose twitter handles are @Protons4B and @skdh respectively, and very much worth a follow. They blow a hole in the fusion hype.

———————————————————————-

I mean it, it is the future.

Or rather, to be accurate, it could be the future.

In the core of the sun, the energy production is very slow, thankfully, so the beast lasts a long time. You need about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 collisons between hydrogen nuclei before you get 1 that successfully fuses, and releases all that energy.

Beating those odds in a man-made magnetic plasma container (such as a Tokamak) is proving to be something that will be done by tomorrow, plus 50 years (and repeat).

Boris Johnson obviously believes that the way to show a flourish of leadership is to channel dreams of technical wizardry that goes well beyond the briefings from those experts in the know.

But who believes in experts in magneto-hydrodynamics? Stop over complicating the story you naysayer PhDs. Positive mental attitude will confound physics! Get back in your box experts!

*CUT TO REAL WORLD*

Man-made fusion energy as an answer to the man-made climate emergency by 2040 is not just ignorant, it is a deliberate and cynical attempt to delay action now. It is a form of techno-fetishism that deniers love. Boris Johnson spends a lot of time with these people.

We have relevant solutions available today, and just need to get on with them.

We do indeed have a functionally infinite fusion energy generator available to humanity, and it is free.

It’s called ‘The Sun’ (an astronomical entity, not a rag masquerading as a newspaper).

If man-made fusion energy is commercialised it *MAY BE* relevant to a world *POST*  resolving the climate crisis, but is definitely not part, or even maybe part, of that resolution.

It fails key tests I discussed here

Please politicians – left, right and centre – stop playing games and take the climate emergency seriously.

It may surprise you that while Boris’s cult following will swallow anything (almost literally), the rest, and particularly the rising youth, will not.

But I am prepared to compromise. A deal is possible.

Fusion is indeed the future …

… it is the energy from the Sun!

And you might be surprised to hear that it gives rise to …

direct Photovoltaic (PV) capture of that energy,

and indirect forms of capture (e.g. wind energy).

Problem solved.

As to man-made fusion, the jury is out (and a distraction for now), and we don’t have time to wait for the verdict.

Resources

  1. A brilliant video talk by Dr Sabine Hossenfelder exposes the key dishonesty in all the reports of fusion energy success, and that is the failure to distinguish between the energy produced in the plasma of a fusion reaction (compared to the energy put into it), rather than the overall or end-to-end energy payback possible from electricity generation plant powered by a fusion reactor. See it here https://youtu.be/LJ4W1g-6JiY
  2. A much loved Radio 4 science programme ‘The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry’ has done some great episodes. I particularly liked one on the properties of water and its role in biological processes. However, it has made a big flop on fusion energy, channelling the same old hype that is reported in hushed and unquestioning tones by journalists.  Dr Michael de Podesta has written a strong critique of this episode his blog Protons 4 Breakfast: ‘Fusion is a failure’, 21st September 2022, See https://protonsforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2022/09/21/fusion-is-a-failure/ 

(c) Richard W. Erskine. 2019 (Resources added Sept. 2022)

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Filed under Climate Science, Transition to Low Carbon

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