Daniel L. Jassby is retired researcher from the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and he wrote an article about Voodoo Fusion for the American Physical Society. It has 15 citations of Nextbigfuture articles to track the slippage in promised dates for nuclear fusion projects.
Daniel noted that Nextbigfuture tracks all of the date claims and progress on nuclear fusion companies and nuclear fusion projects. Nextbigfuture also tracks molten salt companies and other nuclear projects.
* All Nuclear fusion projects have missed deadlines and are very far from generating commercial power unless there are multiple breakthroughs
* IF there was a money scarcity problem and we had to fund only advanced nuclear energy projects that would not less delays and technical risks, then I would choose to fund the molten salt nuclear fission projects.
* IF venture funds or startups wish to have a due diligence report created, then I can research and create a lengthy and thorough analysis of the viability of the technical and business plans of a nuclear project or other technology projects. Due diligence reports vary in cost based on the scope of the diligence.
* If money was scarce and we wanted a nuclear reactor design where smaller versions have safely generated power for decades and should be safer and should generate energy at nearly 1 cent per kwh (although as heat) then the deep pool nuclear reactors would be the choice. China is developing the first of kinds units for deep pool reactors and this would replace the usage of a lot of coal for heating cities. A complete conversion to heat generation from deep pool reactors could displace 500 million tons of coal per year.
* Money is not scarce. Venture capital and equity capital can take a gamble on many different energy projects.
* Government money is wasted in many ways. The $4 trillion of federal US funds each year could deliver the same services for half of the budget or less. It is less of a societal problem that PHDs and engineers work on multi-billion projects that will fail and have useless objectives, than the fact that smart people are missing the opportunity to advance real solutions.
* Daniel Jassby used my links and articles to track nuclear fusion projects. I did the work that he wanted and needed for his article. He then chose to insult me personally. He did not just thank me for spending the time over 14 years to constantly track nuclear fusion and all major energy projects. He chose to insult me because I did not filter or include project metrics with each of my nuclear fusion articles.
Metrics for Tracking Nuclear Fusion
There are project metrics from 2016 that were published in 2017 by LPP Fusion.
Nextbigfuture has noted the comparison of different nuclear fusion projects with different metrics in the past. If Daniel was going to cite over a dozen of my articles, then he could have contacted me for the comparison of projects or used the contact form on the website and I would have told him what I thought of the different projects and companies.
One sketchy way to track the predicted dates for each player’s commercial power plant is to review the articles issued periodically by Brian Wang on nextbigfuture.com. For the last dozen years, Wang has quoted uncritically the rash predictions of future accomplishments with dates furnished by project promoters. Wang treats all projects and unjustified claims seriously, but you, dear reader, will merely take note of the dates promised for commercial fusion reactors.
In general, I do not slam projects and companies. Especially, if I am reviewing what they hope to achieve. I would have to write three to four times as many articles with three articles criticizing projects and companies for every article describing what some company is attempting to achieve.
All of the nuclear fusion companies and projects that have been around long enough have slipped dates and target deadlines. ITER the big Tokamak project is the worst offender in terms of slipped dates. ITER also confuses people in the press releases about the different kinds of breakeven.
A tokamak nuclear fusion demonstration power plant (DEMO) will not arrive before 2050. Tens of billions of dollars will be needed for DEMO reactors. DEMO reactors are after ITER. DEMO’s would show that controlled nuclear fusion can generate net electrical power and mark the final step before the construction of a commercial fusion power plant. This would represent the next stage after ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment underway, which is expected to demonstrate by the late 2030s that fusion can be used to generate net energy, i.e. produce more energy than supplied to it to feed the reactor. ITER is overpriced and very late. ITER began in 1985 as a Reagan–Gorbachev initiative with the equal participation of the Soviet Union, the European Atomic Energy Community, the United States, and Japan through the 1988–1998 initial design phases.
ITER Tokamak Timeline
1985 ITER project starts
2039 maybe net energy [for the plasma] is produced by ITER for 500 seconds
ITER lists its goals as ITER is designed for much higher fusion power gain, or Q greater than 10. For 50 MW of injected heating power it will produce 500 MW of fusion power for long pulses of 400 to 600 seconds. ITER will not capture the power it produces as electricity, but as the first of all fusion experiments in history to produce net energy. In a rollover, there is a definition of net energy. Net energy refers to the energy to heat the plasma and the energy in heat from the plasma.
2050s the first DEMO pre-commercial demonstrations begin operating
2085 maybe some giant and expensive commercial tokamaks begin operation, but would not be cheaper than current nuclear fission reactors
Nextbigfuture has noted the delays in promised commercialization of nuclear fusion. In 2018 and at other updates articles, Nextbigfuture noted that General Fusion and other companies missed their dates. When new dates are given, Nextbigfuture frequently notes the slippage from the prior date.
In 1998, Roy Bickerton gave an introductory on the ‘History of the approach to ignition’. His 1998 predictions for the future was for ITER operational in 2005, and DEMO in 2025. ITER will be at least 20 years late and DEMO will likely be 30 years late. I believe ITER will be 25-35 years late if it gets completed. I am sure Daniel Jassby knew this history. Daniel chose to only slam the non-Tokamaks for missing target dates.
Daniel Jassby notes the problems of the non-Tokamak nuclear fusion companies and focuses on the neutron production. Daniel ignores the decades of delays in the ITER Tokamak project. I do not claim that Daniel Jassby is ignorant. I claim that he is biased and rude.
The expected cost of ITER has risen from $5 billion USD to $20 billion USD, and the timeline for operation at full power was moved from the original estimate of 2016 to 2027. However, the schedule for deuterium and tritium experiments would be in 2035 if things started to go right. They will not be able to complete the deuterium and tritium experiments in 2035 those will go on until 2040 at least. ITER publicizes the 2025 date of first plasma but not the uncertainty of funding and sacrificing of post plasma timeline. The real fusion experiments will be in 2035-2040 and hope to reach 20 minutes of operation. ITER talks about 50 megawatts in 500 MW out but the 50 MW in is for power directly to the heat the hydrogen and the out is heat. It is not electricity input to electricity output.
ITER and many fusion companies and project mislead people into thinking that plasma breakeven is power plant breakeven. Those can be differences of 100 times.
Nextbigfuture has tracked the new Tokamak startups. Commonwealth Fusion systems is targeting 2033 for commercial nuclear fusion.
SOURCES- LPP Fusion, Many Nuclear fusion projects, APS article, Daniel Jassby
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
43 thoughts on “American Physical Society Uses 15 Nextbigfuture Articles to Track Date Slippage of Fusion”
I presume you penned that as a tongue-in-cheek lampoon, right? If so … LOL and I agree.
> except the ticking bombs aboard military subs and aircraft carriers
This is so unfair! Bombs have measly 90~92% enrichment, while the pride of the navy does not even touch such peasant fodder. 🙂 97+
Here is a little OSINT on the subject. From “Components of Naval Nuclear Fuel Transparency, NATO-EAPC Fellowship Report, June 2001”
“On the basis of estimates during the 1980s, Cochran et al. found that a U.S. submarine reactor core contains an average of 200 kg of U-235 enriched to 97.3%”
From presentation to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board on June 6, 1995:
Food is cheap, but it’s actually a lot cheaper than that.
Actual food, in terms of raw materials that we prepare and eat is super cheap. Almost all of our food bill is actually paying for food preparation services because we can’t be bothered grinding our own flour, baking bread, converting other grains into breakfast cereals and all the other processes that we (wisely, in my opinion) palm off to mechanized factories or (less justifiably) get someone in a restaurant or shop to do for us.
Yet I’ve seen many in operation.
I hear that, if you don’t shut down the confinement near the point of exhausting the fuel, you’ll sometimes get a bit of a hiccup in the power output before it shuts down.
Yes because everyone saw their PPTs for the LIFE reactor and sad no thanks.
NIF is about validating software to describe nuclear bomb explosions. Always has been.
Wasn’t NIF(National Ignition Facility) forbidden from mentioning Fusion 7 years ago?
Actually I almost wrote a final bullet point about transit times to Jupiter.
Fusion PPTs are their own genre of literature.
The construction costs are prohibitive.
Project was facing delays (funding issues?) and the reactor has grown a lot in size, at least for initial versions. Future versions using HTSCs might get smaller. But they do not have a break even prototype yet and won’t have one for a few more years.
You also need at least 1/3 of the story to be computer graphics showing how, if the program works out at 150% of the most optimistic projections, then the reactors can be used on Mars, in spaceships, and … say… providing beamed power to robot flying cars.
Well if you want a really simple fusion reactor, you just put a cloud of hydrogen in a vacuum and make it really, REALLY big.
At which point it’s even simpler than a fission plant.
I was trying to find literature detailing the justification of the original decision by the USA to join ITER, I came across this article and thought it was hilarious. Apparently, Iran wanted to join ITER, but someone blocked their membership for some reason. I assume, It was deemed safer for everyone if they stick to enriching uranium for fission instead of messing around with fusion.
The problem is that the overall funding for fusion is so low that even throwing all eggs into the ITER basket is not enough to get there any time soon.
This problem is not new, has been known since the 70ies, but no one does anything about it. And so the “funding for fusion is a waste of money because it is forever away” has become a self fulfilling prophecy.
What about the Skunkworks Fusion project?
Remember their iterative approach of around 2014 was going to bring us a working prototype by 2018.
What most everyone (except they who studied in quantitative detail) don’t know is that “fission is really, really, really easy”, at least as far as the fission reaction is concerned.
With a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, it really is as ‘simple’ as “making a big pile of uranium and a moderator such as graphite or heavy water”, and carefully measuring-and-guiding the reaction to not run away and do a Chernobyl.
Quite different from fusion.
Fusion is (again with TiC) is really as ‘hard’ as “building a huge magnetic bottle, with a magnetic field near the limit of what engineering knows how to do, then pulling a vacuum on the thing, introducing some deuterium (and one supposes tritium), blasting the thing with ions to heat it up, inducing a humungous current in it so that it doesn’t touch the walls, modulating the ginormous field with tangential fields fast enough to keep the ‘soapy water balloon’ of plasma from wiggling out of control, inducing MORE current into it to make up for what is lost to radiation, and … and … and …”
It doesn’t have that simple, “if you want WAY more power, make it a LITTLE bit bigger” thing that fission has.
Laser fusion is nice and it dovetails nicely with the money that the DoD will spend on much more powerful lasers for military purposes.
I don’t want all the eggs in the ITER basket. Most the eggs? Sure. To paraphrase Bussard: “The science is fantastic!” but we all know that it cannot produce cost effective power. Time to diversify and explore other paths.
This Jassbye fellow is probably too old to know that Mr. Wang posts the articles and the trained seals in the peanut gallery comment about how it is all delayed. Its called symbiosis.
Speaking of which we need a post about Lockheed’s fusion reactor. Make sure to include:
Sounds like the design was optimized for something that doesn’t actually happen in the real world.
Also the ol Uranium water heaters can produce electricity much cheaper than DEMO could ever hope to produce power.
For perspective: I did my 6th grade science fair project on fission vs fusion and now that I am middle aged I do not think that traditional fusion is actually closer.
Oh sure they are getting closer to Q = 1 (with caveats) but fusion as a viable power source? We are no nearer to that.
So basically there is a big shitty chain of expenses, bad events which are happening because
energy production is contaminating our planet and it pretty expensive compared to what it could be.
Bad things are happening, but with clean. cheap energy there is lesser probability of shitty events, at least they usually happen later.
So if man gets a disease it is apparenly not good, bad things happen, it would be good if they could find a cure for some diseases.
But it would be much better if they could prevent some of the diseases in the first place from happening, so you don’t need to cure it, and if pollution causes the disease with clean energy you at least lower the probability that shitty event happens or delay it to some other time.
If you get clean energy, which is cheap, high tech with less strain on resources, needs less people to operate,… you save LOTS, TONS OF MONEY IN LONG RUN, which you would lose because of the pollution and higher expenses and it would be a good decision to put tons on money in fusion, because in my personal opinion clean, cheap energy is more necessary and has more benefits than better LCD screen, better weapons, better airplanes and so on,…
Invest in private fusion.
In my personal opinion, private fusion is the way to do it and they are getting close.
Magnets are key tech and are getting really good. Lasers another key tech and again are getting better and better.
In my view there is too much of can’t be done thinking, too little problem solving. It is not something like futuristic science fiction. warp drives or so,.. Fusion can be done it is happening on Earth, it is happening in our sun, it is just a hard nut to crack, to fit it together and to do it, but with money, innovation, hard work can be done.
It was said humans could never fly, never land on moon, never use reusable rocket(cant be done), control splitting of atoms to gain massive amounts of energy? and so on.
There is a big rationale for investing money in fusion. Clean energy prevents so much bad consequences like pollution, disease(because of the pollution), lower life expectancy, lower quality of life, higher costs to clean pollution, GDP drops because of higher costs for healthcare.
Cheap energy again prevents so much bad things from happening. So you get lower electricity bill, you have less trouble with heating, less wasted time, money can be spend on other things, virtually all thing costs less to manufacture, because electricity is cheap, and people can afford more, since things cost less, quality of life increases, gross domestic product increase, less people are employed in energy sector, cheap energy makes so another very interesting things available,… so on.
Gravitational confinement is inherently stable. Magnetic confinement is not. Just learn to draw power from that big gravitational confinement reactor in the sky. It is already producing way more than enough for us.
I chose to not work on fusion back 40+ years ago after learning about micro-instabilities. The same whack-a-mole approach to this fundamental instability issue continues to dominate plasma confinement research.
Yeah, I’ve always been amazed that CANDU reactors haven’t taken over the world, they’ve got so many advantages.
And when we get to Mars, all those untouched Uranium ore bodies, and the water already naturally enriched in Deuterium. Bet the first home built reactor on Mars will be a CANDU reactor!
IIRC a conversation with Bussard a _long_ time ago* at least one Polywell embodiment used ion guns, as well as electron guns. Although, even though the electrons aren’t permitted to thermalize, the ions are, so I suppose you’re right to disqualify such an embodiment as colliding beam.
Nevertheless, the notion of “pressure” seems misguided given the non-Maxwellian distribution.
*Circa 1992 when I was drafting the fusion legislation he later endorsed: http://jimbowery.blogspot.com/2017/07/fusion-energy-prize-awards.html
Oh, those sneaky Canadians and their heavy water reactors.
Actually except for the larger core, what’s not to like? CANDU is a technology waiting for some rising (and sufficiently hefty) Third World partner to take up the design and make it their rubber-stamped power source.
Its kind of awesome that CANDU can not only be fueled initially with natural uranium, but as it runs, with everything from dry-processed spent fuel rods from conventional reactors, to abundant thorium oxide, to denatured atomic weapons cores to non-weapons grade concentrated actinides from high-level nuclear waste reprocessing operations.
AT the SAME time! Remarkable.
And, of course, except for the CANDU reactors, which are capable of running off unenriched Uranium.
EMC^2 isn’t colliding beam, it’s a polywell. It uses magnetic confinement on a sphere-ish volume of plasma. That said, Helion is sort of colliding beam, it’s colliding plasma toroids. That has magnets to confine it when they collide, to increase the yield, I think. So pressure, in these systems, would be the pressure the magnets can exert to counter the outward plasma pressure.
It is a bit unfair. Predicted timelines in forward looking statements are usually based on the assumption of _ideal_ _funding_. Funding for fusion has been below the 70ies joke level of “fusion never”. So this whole thing is a self fulfilling prophecy. “You can’t have money if you can’t hold timelines, but you can’t hold timelines if you don’t have money.”
Someone is baking their cake and eating it too, here.
ITER is a big multinational project. Too many participants that all want their share of the ITER funding and have a word in it. At the same time, even ITER does not have ideal funding.
Also, I believe that we will be in for some surprises very soon, not from ITER, but rather from some of the smaller players. I am looking forward to seeing the latest results from Helion Energy. ZAP Energy Inc has been ahead of schedule and been delivering on their milestones. They are currently in the planning stages for a 600 kA device that will achieve scientific break even. I believe they have the funding they need already. So we may be seeing that happen in the coming years. It took them 4 years to build FuZE and take it to 400 kA (from the previous 50 kA they had with). So we can sort of extrapolate from there.
Tokamak Energy is a year ahead of schedule with their HTSC research. That is a big deal.
LPP with their Dense Plasma Focus is interesting, but they too have been suffering from a severe lack of funding. Their budget is ridiculously low for this kind of work.
EMC² was (is?) a colliding beam fusion company. What is “pressure” supposed to mean for colliding beam systems?
I went through the 418 latest project plan.
There is a lot of unknown science. There are loads of ways they will not reach q >10 for plasma heat out versus plasma heat in. They do list it.
The description of what Q is in a separate article. It is not made clear on the science goals page.
A slippage that was skipped by the original copier of these articles….
I don’t know what Jassby expects from you-you’ve prominently mentioned timeline slippage in your articles about the spate of private fusion ventures.
Hey Brian, if you are actively tracking new power research timelines, could you make some sort of giant gantt chart showing each maker/technology, their various declared timeline(s) and milestones (a new line chain for each timeline revision), along with the actual progress milestone completion line? Having it visual makes for easier comparison between various claimants.
Making that interactive would be great, but a lot of work.
Something similar for battery chemistries/technologies, from first research to commercialization, would also be swell, if you already have that data…
Yes, any one of the alternates could get it to work in 10 years or 1000, you will not know until they try and get their science worked out. All of them could run into some stability issue they cant fix before they run out of money. We will not know for sure fusion gain is feasible until someone actually achieves it. ITER is a science experiment looking to prove it’s possible, it’s not a model for a power plant.
Why kill the only fusion experiment that have their science worked out and is capable of reaching net gain conditions? The others don’t even have that on paper, except maybe the various “ITER Lite” projects.
Nice reference from APS to their conclusion. Sadly, and without intending any irony, the problem with continuous fusion as a power generating technology is that no also-ran player has anywhere near the funding that ITER and its top-shelf kin have, and they aren’t progressing toward a workable, jaw-dropping fusion prototype, anytime soon.
Of all the odd ducks getting sub-critical funding, I think Focus Fusion is the leading mallard. They are getting results, and their energy-in-to-out ratio is amongst the better of the bunch.
In the meantime, we as a species continue to send out geologists to find new repositories of uranium; we mine it, purify it, turn it into UF₆ gas, and then use exquisitely well-balanced supersonic centrifuges to enrich the vanishingly low ²³⁵U (only 0.72%) of natural uranium to something usefully higher for power production. Anywhere from 3.5% to 10% does the trick for most reactors, except the ticking bombs aboard military subs and aircraft carriers.
And using that ²³⁵U enriched uranium, the world’s GROWING FLEET of reactors continue to be topped up with fuel. And produce energy — ginormous amounts of it — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with nearly no downtime per reactor.
… right you are … D. Drake’s defensiveness is OK though — at least we know he’s an advocate of pure Fusion research, if not development. Transnational boondoggle that it HAS been. GoatGuy ✓
Anyone can try an alternative nuclear fusion science experiment. The ITER/DEMO Tokamak path will take until 2080-2100. There are plenty of technologies which could work even if ITER cannot achieve plasma gain for a few minutes.
ITER/DEMO will only how to make an uneconomical approach to nuclear fusion. They show how to make nuclear fusion that will be more expensive than commercial nuclear fission.
Construction delays, so what. ITER’s science is set and does work on paper.
Everyone else is still working on their science, good luck in predicting when they will solve their own issues. The newer companies using ITER’s science and the new high temp. magnets might have a shot if their vc funds holds out.
No one is being mislead, everything in the space is a science experiment. No one is working on a fusion power plant, anyone that says or believes they are is either a fool or a liar. No one can make claims about a commercial fusion plant until ITER achieves fusion gain, then we will know what a viable power plant might look like.
There is nothing confusing in the terminology surrounding fusion, what stupid people choose to believe is their own failing.
Jassby sounds like a d1ck. Takes one to know one (@self).
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