Economic Case for Nuclear Fusion Also Applies to Advanced Fission Reactors

Malcolm Handley of ARPA-E had a presentation that made the economic case for nuclear fusion. The economic case also applies to molten salt nuclear fission reactors and other high-temperature nuclear fission projects. Molten salt nuclear reactors were built and operated in working prototypes in the 1960s and 1970s.

Malcolm indicated that early nuclear fusion reactors could have a reasonably sized market if the price of energy produced was about $60-$75 per megawatt-hour. This could be about $10-30 per megawatt-hour more if there was some of the proposed costs for carbon were introduced.

Process heat is high-temperature heat for industrial purposes. This is 20% of energy usage. Renewables like solar and wind are very inefficient at generating high-temperature heat. These are markets for many nuclear fusion designs and some high-temperature nuclear fission designs. Citing restriction mean nuclear fission would only be able to address 20% of this market. However, if there were safer advanced nuclear fission then the same restrictions on where they could be built may not apply.

Historical solar and wind deployments have been slower than nuclear deployments in Sweden, France and the USA.

Written By Brian Wang,

52 thoughts on “Economic Case for Nuclear Fusion Also Applies to Advanced Fission Reactors”

  1. I don’t think the paper supports that. My takeaway is, there appears to exist some minimally viable pathway to high penetration rates, not good for nukes-NG ate coal’s lunch.~The paper does cite other papers to support their view that stability concerns isn’t an impediment to high penetration rates of intermittent sources .

    An argument often raised against the deployment of renewable energy systems is their inherent variable electricity generation on the temporal time scale. To ensure the security of supply, critics claim that such systems would require large amounts of conventional storage or backup, resulting in a high overall system cost, or a breakthrough in bulk energy storage (Sinn, 2017). However, this is a typical misconception with renewable energy systems as, for example, shown by Zerrahn et al. (2018) and Lovins (2017b). The former shows how storage requirements in renewable energy scenarios for Germany are manageable and do not limit the expansion of wind and PV systems. Even at very high penetration rates of variable renewable energies (e.g. > 80%), the storage energy capacity is typically below 1% with regard to the annual energy demand. Lovins (2017b) extends this discussion by illustrating further analytic examples for the US, EU, China, and Denmark, where high shares of PV and wind can be achieved without major bulk energy storage.

    doi: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2018.07.004

    doi: 10.1016/j.est.2017.10.004

    doi: 10.1016/

  2. It is all a fiction until you cash out. Buybacks will only drive up the price temporarily. The only thing that will drive up the price of the stock long term is growth. In fact, it upsets me when a company whose stocks I own does buybacks. I ask myself why aren’t they investing in growing the company. Of course, I sell that company’s stocks.

  3. It’s just a cost comparison of half a dozen scenarios(Carbon emissions and costs associated with subsidizing New York nuclear instead of replacing it with renewables) Many expect following a lowest cost strategy inexorably leads to nuclear, that isn’t the case in many locales. Except for a few locations, nothing but financing is stopping new nuclear plants. Two reactors in South Carolina were abandoned a few years ago after spending ~9 billion and being lest than 50% complete.
    Nuclear is in danger of finding itself sitting around a vagabond’s campfire asking “how did this happen”, while being consoled by coal.

    This paper compared the cost of maintaining a proposed subsidy for three New York nuclear power plants (Fitzpatrick, Nine MilePoint Unit 1, and Ginna) with the cost of replacing the plants with renewable technologies between 2016 and 2050 (business as usual case). Results indicate that keeping nuclear operating with subsidy until 2050 is the most expensive option, resulting in $32.4 billion(business as usual) in cumulative costs in 2014 USD. If the nuclear plants stay online until 2028 and are then replaced by wind and solar, the overall costs decline to $31.0 billion. The most favorable scenario is to shut down nuclear today and replace it with onshore wind capacities, saving $7.9 billion compared with the business as usual case. Substituting nuclear with a combination of wind and utility-scale photovoltaics saves $6.6 billion between 2016 and 2050.

  4. Your last link there: doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.08.321

    is a German’s paper stating that NY should shutter its nuke plants and build offshore wind. It states that subsidized cost of nuke will be

    $36B expense over X years vs. much less but still $billions for the

    wind. The journal has the word “clean” in it’s name. Why’d you post that?

    To point out the world will be/is generally following the lowest cost path, and lowest cost path might not lead to the assumed destination.
    Journal of Cleaner Production is on the master journal list and has an impact factor in the top 5%, why would anyone care what’s in the name.
    I don’t overestimate my or anyone’s ability to alter the course of the freight train we’re all riding, we are a collective of individuals doing our own thing. I expect “wait and watch” or “try and force a solution” would yield the same results.

    “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

  5. Your rule of thumb is correct. However it doesn’t mean that there is no waste issue which we are shoveling under for future generations.

    Like I said before we need fission to prevent a D&D scenario as you put it.

    I live in the Netherlands, one of the densest populated countries in the world. Practically every day WW2 bombs are found, there is even an effort to dig up all kinds of WW2 planes which apparently got buried and we lost track of. That is just 80 year old dangerous junk. Can you honestly say that you believe that in 200 years time people aren’t going to dig up nuclear waste or kids aren’t going to explore a storage bunker?

  6. I started my reaction with the agreement that we need fission energy to dodge the greatest impact of climate change. I stand by that.

    However nuclear energy is at the moment NOT msr tech. Yes msr looks very promising but how many msr plants are being build or even planned?

    So your reference to a future iteration of a technology doesn’t negate my nuclear waste worry.

  7. Economics is killing nuclear in the US, that’s not changing anytime soon.


    Construction of two Westinghouse AP1000s at the Virgil C. Summer plant
    in South Carolina was abandoned last year. Although the project was only

    40% complete, it had already cost $9 billion. Southern Nuclear’s efforts to build two of the same reactors at its Vogtle plant in Georgia are continuing, but the company currently expects the project to cost approximately $25 billion, a staggering $11,000 per kWe, and these costs are expected to rise. Duke Energy recently cancelled plans to build a new nuclear plant in Florida.

    A combined-cycle plant is $1200-1800/kWe , $845/kWe (Korea)
    PV CSP+Storage is ~6,500/kWe
    PV $1,700 to $2,100/kWe
    Onshore wind plant $1571/kWe
    NuScale estimate $5,078/kWe

    There will always be easier ways to make money than with Nuclear. Safest is irrelevant, you can get financing for wind/solar along with 0 possibility of fission products blowing downwind.

  8. You made my day with your DnD reference! Thank you. Although, technically you should have referenced Gamma World – another pen and paper game by TSR back in the early 80s.

  9. Leftistguy,

    Look into MSRs. Much of the nuclear waste we have can be “burned” by MSR reactors. Thus you would have LESS nuclear waste if you ran such reactors.

    I do not mean to get too trollish on those folks of leftist political thought but it gets soooo frustrating how they ignore data, say the science is settled and let pure emotions rule their decision making process. I used to be a huge fan of wind and solar – until I looked in depth into what they entail. I am still a fan of personal solar as it appeals to my libertarian side, but industrial scale solar?! What an ecological disaster. All I am saying is put your leftist brain on hold (find a safe space for those thoughts) and let the rest of your mind look at what can really be done to solve such problems like having clean CHEAP energy.

  10. I’m not opposed to protecting the brave members of the humongous tribe, who travel past the Wah-Shing-Ton crater, battle the mutant orcs from the Eastern NooY-Orc wastelands, and go deep into the famous cursed dungeons to retrieve the taboo “hot casks” that can keep a castle warm through a long winter without needing to brave white walkers to gather firewood.

    But let’s face it. Primitive tribes are actually pretty good at connecting taboo cursed goods with the resulting plagues that kill everyone in said castle.

    The stories will fade into myth and someone else will break the taboo only every century or so.

    A lot more people will die touching the lightning panels, that generate deadly burning lightning whenever the sun shines on them.

  11. Your post-apocalyptic view of a dungeons and dragons future is far more likely to occur if we don’t have cheap, clean, reliable power available.

    Anyway, here’s a quick rule of thumb:
    Very radioactive = short life time
    Long life time = not very radioactive

    The idea of highly radioactive materials that will stay so for 10s of thousands of years is missing the entire point of what radioactivity is.

  12. I is, I suppose, very slightly possible that there are adults that connect opposition to green policies to the teenage-boy-level view that one’s personal worth is counted by the “number of chicks you’ve banged”.

    And connected inextricably, such that the views can be determined from the bedpost notch number, and vice versa.

    But the chances are much more likely that such an incredibly juvenile and simplistic world view is fake.

    “Libtard” here (if that is her real name) is pretending to hold such a moronic position in an attempt to make real anti-nukes look even more stupid than they already do.

  13. So, your future vision is planet of the apes post-apocalyptic nobody knows what is in the spent fuel cask so let’s open it up? And we should protect those people?

  14. Funny. He’s married to a pretty Filipina. Expand his avatar and you’ll see her, little lady right there next to the man’s side.

  15. Yes fission has a relative safe track record. Now. However taking responsibility for what happens to our descendants is a different story.
    I personally think we need fission to overcome the current environmental issues, but the ease with which the fission advocates ignore the nuclear waste problem annoys me no end.
    We have a hard time understanding motives of people in the previous century. We are still debating what Stonehenge is about. Every pyramid we find we open up without regard of the content.
    There is no sure way we can communicate with people 500 years in the future let alone with a complete new civilization in 1000 years or in 10 thousand years or even 50 thousand years.
    In 10 thousand years every nice orange concrete nuclear storage box will be inspiration for a cult and no doubt opend up. Even very deep cave systems used as storage could be flooded or even brought to the surface in the time frames we are talking about.
    Yes fission might be needed now. But it is in no way safe.

  16. That’s not why stock buybacks occur. Whether paid out as dividend or a stock buyback, it creates shareholder value. You and I, we and us all have more stock than the execs do. We all get a benefit from buybacks. What would you have companies in a free market do? Should we force them to spend it on something you’d like?

  17. It’s their money. You may want them to spend it on LFTR, but they get to choose.
    Until there is a working fusion reactor, anyone citing its economic case might be premature.

    DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804655115

    The authors – an engineer, an economist and a national security analyst – reviewed the prospects for so-called advanced designs for large nuclear reactors, and for much smaller modular reactors that could avoid the billions in construction costs and overruns that have plagued the nuclear energy industry since the beginning. They concluded that no new designs can possibly reach the market before the middle of the century. They cite the breeder reactor that, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, received $100 billion in public development funds worldwide over six decades and still did not get off the ground.

    The authors say there may be an opening for small modular reactors but that it will be very difficult to find a market for these reactors without – as is always the case with nuclear power – a massive infusion of taxpayer dollars. “For that to happen,” they argue, “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies would be needed to support their development and deployment over the next several decades, since present competitive energy markets will not induce their development and adoption.”

    If you don’t support the cheapest solution, apparently, your real motives might be tyranny

    doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.08.321

  18. Where do you get the idea that fission is not safe? The media? Look at the actual statistics before you make such a poorly informed claim.

    Glad you understand one of the ecological impacts of wind, many on the left do not acknowledge that. However wind and solar also have the problem cost, space, material, and storage. It takes millions of metric tons of material to start to make a real difference in power needed. To do industrial solar you would need 1000s of square miles – that’s thousands of miles of pristine desert ecosystems turned into giant solar parking lots.

    Nuclear is the safest, most environmentally friendly source of power there is – especially if you look at what can be done with Gen 4 MSRs. It also has the potential to be the cheapest. People on the right have no problem with nuclear but the left seems Hell bent on not solving a problem with such a straight forward solution.

  19. But sadly not among those leading the leftist movement. Those in power will do what they can to stop ANY nuclear… there are exceptions but they are few.

  20. Sadly many on the left are totally against anything with the evil word “nuclear”. Does not matter if it could solve the climate change crisis. The leading politicians on the left don’t want a solution, they want more control over the unwashed masses. The “Green New Deal” here in the states, which was presented by ex bartender with an IQ that reviles most speed limits in the U.S. is very clear on that – NO NUKES allowed.

    So the grand solution to get nuclear back up and running is vote out the left… but that is pure wishful utopian thinking on my part – this way of thinking (utopian) ironically makes me have common ground with those on the left.

  21. That is why I avoid drinking booze altogether. Never know when someone will say something to elicit an alcohol burn out your nostrils.

  22. “deuterium (or just water) in neutron flux would generate tritium”

    You do realize that D is useful in fission reactors because it DOESN’T measurably absorb neutrons, and that T is actually produced currently by irradiating lithium6-bearing fuel assembly poison inserts in one of the Watts Barr PWRs… I would imagine tens of grams are made from these inserts as many are used per some diagrams I have.

    Looking at some training materials that I can’t share, it seems that a large PWR without the lithium inserts (i.e. not Watts Barr) will make about 2 grams of T/year. 83% of T in LWR comes from a process called “Ternary Fission” in the fuel, where one T is generated for approximately 10,000 fissions – tends to chemically bond in there (stay put). 13% of the T is generated by low-probability side reactions in the boron poisons incorporated IN the fuel and 4% is produced by the same side reactions in the coolant’s dissolved boron. 7Li enriched LiOH is added to the coolant to maintain 7.2-7.4 PH; there are fast reactions yielding T, but they are shown to contribute ~0% to the T source for the LWR.

    Of note is that D+n -> T is not mentioned in this material.

    So, blasting neutrons through plain water or heavy water isn’t the way to make T. You simply irradiate lithium and you get T, but it is rather mobile and diffuses out of the system.

  23. Someone asked Eric Lerner about that once, and he said physicists call it “fission” if the reaction is caused by a neutron hitting a nucleus, and “fusion” if caused by nuclei slamming into each other at high energies.

  24. The transmission lines for all Earth based systems are currently absurd. Power beaming Earth to Earth is the way to go there, using simple redirecting sats. Then add Space Solar Power to the rectennae already built, and go! Nukes’ reliance on intermittency to fight renewables is dead, without even H, which buries it.

  25. I will give you that: Fission is great for when you’re on a planet where nature has concentrated the elements you need for fuel. But once we move into space, and are encountering material that hasn’t been concentrated in that manner, fusion would be nice. Especially once we get out into the Kupier belt.

  26. “Fission has take too damn long to go safe enough.”
    Fission has been safer than anything else almost from the start.
    Any claims to the contrary come from liars & those who believed the lies.

  27. Yeah, the Malthusians have already noticed that any powerful, reliable energy source above what Earth provides is a death sentence to their scarcity and self effacement cult.

    So they will find any excuse to reject them. Nuclear is very safe and reliable nowadays, if they really wanted to benefit humankind, they would have already accepted it and promoted it.

    Never mind, other nations will.

  28. > no fusion reactors that have come remotely close to break-even

    In 1998, the JT-60 in Japan achieved results with D-D fuel which would have accomplished Q=1.25 with D-T.

    The only reactor with tritium capability is JET, which achieved Q=0.67 in 1997.

    At the time the only way to take tokamaks further was by making them bigger, hence ITER. Now we can do it with better superconductors. MIT’s ARC is designed for net power and would be the size of JET, which was built in four years.

  29. Then they’ll notice the neutrons, and reject it.

    The advantage of non-government R&D is that skeptics are not obliged to spend their money on projects which they deem unfeasible. But when the technology turns out to be feasible and its product is ready, then each consumer must pay a fair share [1] of its IP costs besides whatever else. And those IP costs must include 15-20% annual interests for every R&D expense. Delays must not be taken into account when calculating those interests, of course. Only time which is essential for the R&D of the product. So proponents of some technology – fusion reactors, for instance – may help scientists and engineers by buying shares of the IP on which they work and thus have a chance to sell those shares at higher prices later, if the technology succeeds on the market and consumers need to buy them.

    [1] Fair share of IP costs for a consumer is a ratio of the quantity of products which have been made for the consumer using that IP to the quantity of all products which have been made using that IP (for everyone).

    Now you may try and explain all of that to your senators. Or just read another pamphlet here:


  30. I loved the idea of fusion but these reactors have been worked at for 60 years. No give. Tokomak, Spheromac Pinch, Inertial Confinement..nada. There is never a payoff except for the plasma physicists at work. Fission has take too damn long to go safe enough. Westinghouse, GE, Babcock-Wilcox, pissed away their future. What is happening in the field of engineering is that solar and wind and pushing ahead bigtime, and getting nice results.

    IIf one is married to using energy for spaceflight, fine! I am sure it will work great, and so will laser launched sails. But if we want power from earth we will need cheap enough and abundant enough to displace the fossil stuff. For wind, there’s the bird and bat problem, but it looks like its fixable by lighting wind towers with infrared, and ultraviolet respectively.

    For fusion? Promises Promises Promises ad nauseum.

  31. What fission cannot deliver is an abundance of cheap neutrons, and a scalable power source for space. Both uses become feasible exactly at breakeven. The neutron use becomes feasible even below breakeven, as it solves sticky problems with long-lived fission products and some problematic actinides. Also, cheap high neutron flux enables energy applications of luxury materials such as californium and plutonium-238. There is already a market for that. But most importantly, I have to remind the reason fission power came to existence: it is merely a byproduct of weapons program. First reactors were built for making plutonium and tritium, everything else was meh. Fourth generation nuclear weapons will require at least kilogram quantities of tritium annually, for each owner, and that requires cheap neutrons from D-D reaction.

    For space, fission has a radiative cooling problem: cannot be hot enough due to solid or liquid material properties, as gaseous fission fuel was never developed enough. Plasma and vacuum are a better match technologically to the space environment, as fission is for terrestrial. No need for vacuum chambers in vacuum, no issues with outgassing and plasma contamination, no restrictions on size, but inevitable restriction on mass. Vacuum is the lightest construction material, and in space it is also free. So fusion power for space, fission power for Terra, and neutrons at breakeven for materials.

  32. Actually, that’s completely true.  

    Just about the only reason we DO consider it fusion … is that ¹¹B + ¹p → ¹²C; reminding ourselves that ¹¹B is the majority (78%) natural species (which hints that “its the stable one”), and ¹²C is über-super-duper stable (99.7% of all carbon) … the interesting conundrum is … so why doth ¹²C blast to 3 × ⁴He bits?

    I believe the answer is (and please feel free to castigate, denigrate and deprecate as you see fit) is that the fast (what, about 0.7 MeV?) proton, upon overcoming just electrostatic repulsion of the ¹¹B nucleus, merges ‘happily enough’, but the resulting ¹²C nucleon has so much resonant energy-of-formation that it blasts itself to smithereens right quick. Attoseconds. No gig. 

    So, that makes it “fusion without byproducts (including heat!) followed by subatomic nuclear detonation (fission on steroids)”.  

    Making you right.  
    And yet it is still technically fusion, too.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  33. Man… I should NEVER be drinking an evening’s tipple when reading comments. Your conclusion … literally … ejected a mouthful of wine right out my snout. Dâhmn that hurts!  

    Tell you what space-boy. You put your quahogs into AI and quantum computers, and go long on fusion. I’ll short fission-of-all-types. The greenies are going inevitably to shame the world into actually doing something more than hand-waving at reducing the rather prodigious output of CO₂ that modern civilization (presently) depends upon for … most everything. Eventually I’m betting that we’ll go semi-nuclear for most-everything like France, and a whole lot of opportunity-generation from solar and wind for most of the rest of the power picuter. 

    There’ll be all sorts of steampunk windmill ideas for storing bits of power. 

    But mostly, nuclear and hydro will make up the bulk of the baseline and seasonally predictable diurnal need. The solar and wind will just cut demand by that much, delaying the inevitable nuclear fuel ‘refueling’ swapping over time. 

    All’ll be well. 
    Trust that.

    All’ll be well. 
    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  34. We have more than enough money to do R&D for LFTR and fusion at the same time. Companies spend $trillions just buying back their own stocks so that their executive stock options can be cashed out. There isn’t a lack of money. Just a lack of vision.

  35. I’m still not convinced that p+B is even fusion.

    Your larger atom, B, is broken up into smaller He atoms. So that’s fission.

  36. Isn’t this like doing an economic analysis to demonstrate the economy of driving a flying car to work compared to catching a bus?

    When, you know, you haven’t accounted for the huge up front cost of inventing, developing and building the flying car in the first place.

    And you don’t actually know what the fuel usage would be, because it hasn’t been invented yet, so you just put in wild guesses.

  37. Fission and fusion should not be mentioned in the same breath.
    Is like saying death and life in the same breath. Fusion is life and it will happen soon thanks to universal quantum computer and AI simulations. Perhaps AI and quantum computer simulations will even show us a way to do cold fusion (just not like it is being tried now).
    You are giving up on somthing that will change everything just when it is within our grasp.

  38. They won’t, though, because fusion isn’t intended to be used. It’s intended to be a research sink, “proof” that its advocates aren’t really opposed to nuclear power, just fission, until they get it working. Then they’ll notice the neutrons, and reject it.

  39. In contrast, Fusion comes in two main varieties

    • “Easier” using deuterium, tritium (or ³He)
    • “Aneutronic”, using H and Boron. (“harder”)

    D + T has the lowest “sweet spot” of confinement-time and temperature. But it produces mucho neutrons.

    Scaling also kind of sucks: the multi-billion dollar reactor has to scale by the ⅔ power of intended operating power. Not bad, but not as compelling as fission. (Bigger pile makes WAY more energy.) Need a fusion reactor 100× bigger? The physical reactor is 21× bigger.  

    As hinted, D+T ‘suffers’ from high energy neutron production. These are the kind that can actually fission so-called non-fissile ²³⁸U! They bind to everything, making the reactor interior immensely radioactive for a long time after shutdown. Same goes for the coolants used, typically liquid-metals, to maximize energy capture and power recovery.  


    Aneutronic, or p+B. The one simple reaction using materials abundant on Earth’s surface. Problem is, that the “sweet spot” for fusion (temperature, pressure, time) is over 20× higher than for D+T. Bad monkey.  

    Although the production of neutrons is 280× less for p+B than D+T (for a given fusion rate), there still are fast neutrons. And more when the byproduct ³He gets involved. It is NOT a magic cure.  

    This is why I remain hopelessly cynical about Fusion’s arrival in my, if not my grandchildren’s lifetime.  

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  40. To which may be added that fission reactors are robust, they operate in the face of significant levels of impurities, they don’t require high vacuum, they can run for years with next to no maintenance, many decades with merely reasonable maintenance, and don’t require anything particularly exotic outside the fuel.

    Whereas most fission reactor designs are finicky, high maintenance beasts requiring high vacuum, high purity, superconductors. High vacuum and superconductors in close proximity to high neutron fluxes!

    For most proposed fusion reactor designs, even if you did get them to breakeven, they would never be cost effective, the capital costs and maintenance would be too high.

  41. Please, please, please … lets get over the eternal optimism re: Fusion’s glowing future. Last I checked (which is to say, just about every shred of news, over the last 4 decades), there are no fusion reactors that have come remotely close to break-even, let alone having the bâhlls to make it to CoP 10-50 level power production.  


    But there are dozens on the drawing board.  
    As there have been for the last 40 years.

    Here’s the deal — as to why “fission” was fast-tracked to produce the hundreds of near-gigawatt or beyond reactors that exist today — and it definitely is worth remembering. 

    • Uranium isn’t rare.
    • The chain reaction trivially scales.
    • ²³⁵U fission has a ‘slow leg’ allowing it to be controlled.
    • “Nuclear boiler” tech is as steampumk as WW2 ever got.
    • The ‘high tech cost’ of ²³⁵U enriched fuel is self-limiting (proliferation)
    • U and Pu fission produce abundant, INTENSE power.  
    • The waste products virtually completely self-denature with time, except a few
    • A huge amount of industrially and medically useful byproduct … comes.

    But it is № 1 thru № 4 that were compelling. WAY more power comes from only slightly larger nuclear cores. The reaction is entirely controllable. We have a LOT of uranium. Plenty of breeder plutonium. …

    These cannot be said of ANY fusion device, today or in the next 10 year window. (more…)

  42. A near-future fusion reactor has zero chance of competing on price, but still there may be a great demand for fusion. The extra cost would buy the sleekest way into the nuclear weapons club, as both D-T and D-D reaction generates immense neutron flux, which is essentially the shortcut straight to weapons materials. Natural uranium put in neutron flux would generate top-grade plutonium; deuterium (or just water) in neutron flux would generate tritium; and all that would be done quickly, and just a byproduct of “power reactor”. Very well played, if anyone can do that. Before “international community” gets it and freaks out, enough materials could be made for a decent arsenal. The best in the fusion route to weapons is the D-D reaction: tritium is very hard to buy in quantity, and it is controlled, while deuterium is in the water tap near you. A fusion reactor with D-D fuel does not even have to achieve break-even in energy to be highly valuable in “non-energy applications”. Also there are hybrids, though apparently that has not been tried yet. A D-D fusion reactor creates neutron flux that goes into natural uranium core that boosts power output. There is keen interest in hybrids from countries that do not need it for power. But cheap neutrons make it feasible.

  43. One thing that the NRC could do to promote the fusion development is to lay out the licensing guidelines now, and make sure that they’re commensurate with the (near non-existent) risk.

    If the guidelines are easy to achieve, there’s a big incentive for fusion commercializers to cost-reduce early, which in turn can lead to more aggressive rollout. But if the guidelines are either murky or too stringent, then there’s more bang to the buck in ensuring that licensing is clean, which means that costs stay high and rollouts are slow.

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