Chris Phoenix asked in the comments – Why is China not making a small investment of about $10 million into Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) which has an interesting dense plasma focus nuclear fusion effort ?
1. China tends to acquire western energy technology and scales up production.
They acquire almost every commercial nuclear fission reactor out there and then gets the technology and supple chain transfered and then looks at which one(s) can be scaled up the most. It turns out it was a version of the french reactor for the second generation and the Westinghouse AP1000 for the third generation. However, they are looking at the 800 MWe Russian fast neutron reactor (building two) and pebble bed technology (which they got from the Germans). However, the fast neutron reactor already has had commercial operation for one 600 MWe unit for decades and the Pebble Bed already had working prototypes.
China also scooped up the best commercial solar and wind technology and built massive factories and scaled up production.
So China can look at LPP and wait for a working prototype and then come in and buy in at $100 million and scale them up with billions.
China operates more like a Cisco that buys late stage startups or scoops up small competitors.
If some energy technology is producing a few gigawatt hours and needs massive factories and tens of billions to get up many terawatt hours that is China’s speciality. China’s leadership is managing plans to get another 500-1000 Terawatt hours added per year. China is adding about ten times the amount of new energy production every year as the United States or Europe.
China is the major leagues of energy production.
Europe and the US are Triple A.
LPP has not shown that they can play ball yet. Get to net energy production and then they are a real prospect and worth some development into a commercializable prototype. The commercializable prototype could get put into the development farm system.
Adding a United States in energy every 4-6 years. Even the nuclear fission as they get to fourth in the world is just the commercial experimentation phase. The nuclear fission (120 TWh/year now and will add about 30-60 TWh this year) is behind hydro (about 1000 TWh and adding about 150 TWh per year) in terms of importance to China’s near term energy portfolio. Hydro is where they make Three Gorges Dam equivalent every year or two and plan to dam every major river.
2. China has not shown that they are good at taking far out research (ARPA or DARPA) and getting it proven and taking that all the way.
China has top down authority which is not good for fostering basic breakthrough innovation China has not equivalent of DARPA or ARPA.
3. The US energy research ARPA has not produced breakout energy technology that has moved the needle in terms of deployed energy systems.
4. There is also technology politics. The people and companies in China behind a dominant technological approach will try to squeeze out any new competitors and try to prevent them from being funded and brought into China’s portfolio.
In transportation this can be seen in high speed rail where the the “traditional” high speed rail tries to squeeze out maglev work.
In construction, the traditional skyscraper makers try to squeeze out and hinder Broad Group and their factory mass produced skyscrapers. However, in the meantime the traditional guys try to catch up with more automatation and modularization.