Elon Musk Versus China for the Future of Space and Energy

Many will say that a claim that Elon Musk and China are competing for the future of space and energy is excessive hype. I will review the current data as people may not be aware of where China and Elon Musk companies are already the top competitors in space and electric cars. I will provide links to some background of my past predictions to show that I have an excellent track record in predictions.

China companies and Elon Musk companies have been the primary places where heavy industry has been created from scratch in the 21st century.

Why Does Future Space and Energy Market Share Competition Matter?

If lithium batteries and electric cars displace oil and combustion engine cars then the battle for lithium battery market share will be like the geopolitical struggle of the US vs OPEC vs Russia of today.

Reusable rocket market share will be like today’s battle between Airbus and Boeing for commercial aviation and commercial air cargo.

It is already a fact that Elon Musk companies (Tesla and SpaceX) are already the main competitors for Space and Energy and they are either dominating or chasing after China depending upon which specific area in Space or Energy is being discussed. This competition will get more intense over the 2020s and into the 2030s.

If Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla were not around and giving the US leadership in Space and electric cars then China would dominate two critical industries for the future.

About 66% of the world solar panels are produced in China. Tesla is installing solar energy and has started to produce solar roofs where the solar is built as part of the roof tile.

China’s total EV and plug-in hybrid sales were 1.3 million in 2020. Tesla produced and sold just short of 500,000 EVs in 2020.

China has had a joint venture with Panasonic for making lithium batteries. China created the first lithium battery gigafactory. If Tesla is able to deliver on Battery Day plans then Tesla plans to produce 10 GWh/year of batteries in 2020, 110+ GWh/year of batteries in 2022 and scaling to 3000 GWh/year of batteries. China is starting 140+ lithium battery gigafactories by 2030. Total battery plans are for over 2000 GWh/year of lithium battery production by 2030 from China (Benchmark Minerals).

If Tesla meets or exceeds Battery Day 2030 goals then Tesla (and the USA) will have the dominant share of future lithium battery production. If Tesla broadly misses the Battery Day goals then China will maintain 70% share of the world lithium battery market. In 2020, China currently has 75% market share of the world lithium battery production while the US has 7%.

Tesla is the main US company looking to solve the battery raw material and supply chain issues.

Space Competition

In 2020, China had 34 space launches and SpaceX had 26 space launches. China has many military and government launches. SpaceX has over 60% of the commercial space launch market.

China has rocket startups trying to copy the first stage re-use of the SpaceX Falcon 9. Recently, China announced a super-heavy rocket (Long March 9) that looks like an attempt to copy the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship.

Russia and Europe rockets used to dominate space launch back in 2010. Both Russia and Europe are almost out of commercial launch because they are not competitive with China and SpaceX. If SpaceX did not exist then the US rocket program would be in a similar situation to Europe.

The old US space companies (United Launch) would still not have a new rocket and would be trying to re-use old Space Shuttle era technology. Blue Origin has just delayed the New Glenn rocket to 2022. Blue Origin started trying to launch rockets years before SpaceX. Blue Origin has not reached orbit with a large rocket. Blue Origin had to use a small rocket stage to get some cubesats to orbit off of its sub-orbital launcher.

Many in the space industry will talk up Blue Origin or United Launch Alliance as competitors for the future of Space. This makes no sense. Real competitors for the future of space would be successfully making new rocket designs and getting those rockets to orbit. SpaceX has the Falcon 9 family (many versions) and the Falcon Heavy and will soon have the Super Heavy Starship.

China Wants to Copy Tesla and SpaceX

China like Michael Corleone wants to keeps its friends close but its enemies (competitors) closer. China believed that Steve Jobs of Apple was a genius. China welcomed Apple and Foxconn into China. China never took over Apple’s factories or tried to hinder Apple from selling smartphones in China. China could get workers and executives who worked at Apple to take what they learned and help Hauwei and Xiaomi and other Chinese companies to get a massive chunk of the smartphone market. China wants the same from Tesla. China wants Tesla and workers at Tesla at the Shanghai factory to help other Chinese electric car and battery companies to get better.

China also imports about 70% of its oil and has a massive air pollution problem. The faster China can convert trucks, buses and cars to electric the sooner they will be able to reduce oil imports and fix air pollution. Fixing air pollution would boost the health of China’s people and economy. Air pollution in China reduces China’s GDP by over 7%.

Converting about 10 million heavy trucks to electric would remove 3 million barrels per day of oil imports. China only produces 3.5 million barrels of oil domestically. This conversion to electric would be like doubling China’s domestic oil production.

Reviewing Some Past Accurate Predictions

I have to review some accurate predictions I have made about China and Elon Musk and his companies. This review is to indicate that I was right in the past. It does not mean I will definitely be right in my current predictions of the future but I have a good track record.

I was accurate in predicting the 10X growth of China’s economy over 15 years and predicted Elon Musk becoming 10X wealthier over 4-8 years.

Many people (perhaps even most people) have been critical of the hundreds of articles that Nextbigfuture wrote about China over the past 15 years. Many people would see any article about China’s economic success as someone being a China fan. People would always bring up ghost cities. People will also dismiss articles about Elon Musk as being written by Elon Musk fanboys. I have written over 30,000 articles. The vast majority are not related to China and Elon Musk.

Among the predictions that I made in 2006 were two predictions on China’s economy.

China second largest economy in straight currency conversion measures   2013-2015
China largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms            2009-2012

China overtook Japan in 2010 in terms of being the second-largest economy in currency conversion measures. Japan’s economy was weaker than I expected. By 2008, I had realized and forecast that China would pass Japan in 2010.

The Penn World Tables is a primary source of Purchasing power parity statistics. Penn World reported that China passed the US to become the largest economy in PPP in 2012.

In 2017, Nextbigfuture predicted that Elon Musk would become the richest person in the world. Nextbigfuture predicted a net worth of $250 billion to $450 billion by 2025. Elon Musk will surpass that prediction but that prediction was made when Elon Musk was worth $20 billion.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, QZ, Nanotech-now, Brian Wang analysis
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com (Brian owns shares of Tesla and SpaceX)

64 thoughts on “Elon Musk Versus China for the Future of Space and Energy”

  1. Sure, enough money can convince a government (any government) to let you buy some of their land.
    But once you've paid, and they've got their money, and spent it… now you are relying on the goodness of their hearts to keep their end of the bargain.
    You're probably better off leasing the land, at least that way they are getting a payment every year that they would give up if they decide to nationalise your assets "for the good of the people".

    Admittedly, places with a strong, semi-independent court system might hold up any sort of nationalisation for a while. Make it difficult. But if the motivation is high enough even that won't hold up. And if the "independent court system" was ideologically opposed to this big foreign sale in the first place? Or has become so in cultural shifts over the years?

  2. mostly i jest – for the sums are ludicrous.
    but, every One and every Thing has its price. Glory, control, and limelight are fleeting and often illusory. Rules vary with your level of 'Party Enthusiasm' I would guess. What is granted/ admitted publicly is often cursory/ hidden in fact. Chinese success, if any, has more to with the amount of tolerated deviation and exceptionalism from Party Lines/ dogma than in its alleged strength in Unity and communalist Vision as being a True Alternative to a competitive/ litigative/ narcissistic-obsessive western culture. But Vast Sums just seem to nudge these principles and regulations out of the way – somehow, irrespective of cultural leaning.

  3. I'm no expert of Wilson, but I could guess that he was concerned with how things were in 1917, not how things were at the beginning of 1914.

    A brief search shows up some general points, such as

    Although global stock markets reopened between 1914 and 1917, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the restrictions on financial markets that prevented the free flow of capital that had existed before 1914 were removed. Only after the fall of Communism did stock markets become as globally integrated as they had been before 1914.



    To conclude, if we look at the period between 1870 and 1913, for Europe and Japan there is an increase in international trade in relation to GDP showing an increasing openness on the part of the major countries of the world. If we look at 1913 to 1929, we see a decline in the importance of international trade as a percentage of GDP for almost everyone except Japan. This was not a glorious period for international trade, becoming even worse during the 1930s.

  4. "…articles pointing out that all the major European (and Ottoman) empires were so intertwined economically…" Then why the need for the 3rd point in Woodrow Wilson's 14 points statement near the end of WW1 ?

    " III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance."

    I'm thinking the empires protecting their turf with large armies and navies weren't really that intertwined economically – at least on level to please liberal economists (classical) like Frédéric Bastiat who said, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will”.

  5. You can't buy a piece of China.
    They might agree to take your money. They'll let you operate on "your" land as long as it suits them.
    But at the end of the day the Chinese government has complete say over what happens there and the second they decide they don't want you to "own" it any more, it's gone back to Chinese control.

    Exactly the same rules apply to fears of China buying up land in the USA.

  6. "actually producing flyable systems quickly" is the race Musk is in.
    "Bezos in his O'Neill Space understanding" is the race Bezos is in. Mars or Space, that is the question. I hope Bezos decides to use Musk rockets, so he can focus on the important stuff, you know, O'Neill, global weirding, population relief, Space Solar, ISM, asteroid deflection. Not Mars!

  7. Nope, looks like your typical NASA facility, where looking pretty for the congresscritters is Job One, and actually producing flyable systems quickly is much further down on the priority list.

    That said – I wish Bezos all good fortune in development. He's way behind, and will have to work hard to catch up.

  8. Predicting Chinese growth wasn't hard – who didn't, apart from Gordon Chang and many Western journalists (hardly a high bar) – but the Elon Musk prediction was genuinely impressive.

  9. Elon's big rival is Blue Origin, not China. China won't have anything comparable to New Glenn for years and then BO will develop New Armstrong which will be even more capable.

    Eventually China and India will have highly competitive space companies, probably starting in the 2030s.

  10. The problem with that Collaboration paragraph is that exactly the same thing was said in the years before World War 1.

    There was a stream of books and articles pointing out that all the major European (and Ottoman) empires were so intertwined economically, and had such deadly military forces, that a major war would destroy them all.

    The analysts were right. It did destroy them all. Only the British empire was left standing at the end, and it was mortally wounded. But the analysts were wrong in thinking this meant that war couldn't happen.

  11. Even in China, the countryside is much, much larger than the city. So a similar amount of pollution in each location still favours putting it in the countryside.

  12. At least Enhanced Geothermal is on the first page when you google EGS, but I agree that just dropping random sets of initials into a conversation and expecting other people to know WTF you mean is just RFA IYKWIM.

  13. What they use now. Natural Gas is the growth fuel and passed coal in the USA a few years ago. All fossel fuel have problems today. We ban fracking and their goes natural gas. IMO a bigger problem then banning fracking is that the industry will be unable to attract the capital to provide the product at reasonable prices. Keep it up and the pipelines that are blocked now by anti fossel fuep regualators will find investors are not going to put money on building long term investments in transmission lines with so many questions o/s. There will be no need to block the pipelines. We just witnessed Texas going dark but the same thing has been predicted to happen on the East Coast. It actually happened on a large scale in China this year. China could not get enough gas due to inadequate transportation. Plus places like Texas rely on associated gas from oil exploration which has collapsed with the collapse of the Baken.

  14. If they switch to electric they will import less oil. Maybe, what will they use to fire the electric generators? Coal?

  15. The fact that Musk's companies are essential in the tech race with China is the reason why he seems to enjoy a pass for market manipulation (secured funding for delisting @420, Bitcoin/Dogecoin, etc…) on Twitter and even punishable personal offenses (pedoguy, etc…). Working class commoners go to jail for these things.

    Having said that, there's also an ambivalent role awaiting for him in the future, depending on what the USA chooses to do:
    Collaboration: the shared interests between China's and USA's elites are just too many, there's not going to be a war until the blocks do business together. Chinese upper class pupils study in the US and their parents buy US real estate and financial assets, which might as well be seized. Similarly, US elites are heartfully investing in China and all those billions can disappear suddenly in case of conflict. Conflict is not gonna happen until there's so much inter-dependency and Musk would be the symbol of that when Tesla's revenues/assets are sort of 1/3 Americas, 1/3 APAC and 1/3 EMEA.
    Conflict: if SHTF, Musk will become a martyr. Since a lot of people identify with his dreams, the narrative of the self-made man etc… he sort of became a symbol of the American ambition. In case of conflict, when China seizes Tesla's assets there, the media will portray him as a victim and China as a betraying hostile nation that must be put back in its place. He'll become useful to make reluctant taxpayers sacrifice more to sustain the war costs.

  16. It should be silly.
    Nothing is more silly than that it currently is not( though I have hope that this is beginning to change). It's symptomatic of the sheer stagnation of the industries that Elon has successfully disrupted.

  17. I certainly agree with the positive nature of cheap launch. The process can certainly go faster, but the logic of O'Neill remains. Free launch is no competition to ISM/ISRU, neither of which Musk plans to use other than on Mars itself, where it is not 0 g and useless to any other project. Many other factors than starting launch cost dictate O'Neill as superior plan to Musk/Mars. If we buy his rockets cheaply to do it, he will have contributed, but it is hardly all the difference in the world, or off them.

  18. I did see something about a major revision in the Moltex design, but couldn't find any details. Sodium does have some pluses. The melting point is well below that of fluorides ( though the boiling point is also lower, limiting the maximum possible Carnot efficiency ), and sodium doesn't moderate the neutrons as much as fluorine, so fast neutron fission and breeding are better. More important, there are many more reactor/years of experience with sodium, including operational power plants. Thirty years use of the EBR showed practically no corrosion in the sodium circuit. Fluoride corrosion control is much less well understood, but keeping water and oxygen out is just as important as for sodium systems, in this regard.

  19. Any notion that American progress will fail if not for the existence of some guy is silly.
    Any notion that one guy is doing something special that cannot be done by others is really silly.

  20. It's specifically that combination of molten salt and traditional cladding that to my mind puts Moltex ahead of Terrapower. None of the concerns you get with Sodium.

    Also, I seem to recall seeing a paper from Moltex concerning a larger batch fuel design that would not use in line swapping….

  21. At a guess, I believe that he's referring to Enhanced( I would also add 'advanced, closed loop') geothermal systems.

    And he's certainly correct that 'baseload energy, anywhere' geothermal is poised for a fracking sized boom over the next decade. Look up Eavor Technologies, in whom BP and Exxon( primarily) just dropped a cool 40 million for scale up and production of their naturally circulated 'underground radiator' and the recent advancements in drilling technology to finally unlock depths beyond 3 miles. It's the biggest energy and tech story outside of Elon's efforts, and by far the biggest one that nobody's talking about — yet. 😉

  22. Cost per pound to orbit isn't immaterial. It's all the difference in the world.

    But I won't argue who's best. Whomever is the one delivering cheap reusable space launchers is the 'winner', but in reality, all humanity will be.

  23. The entire characterization of what is going on is gibberish.
    It is not a battle. Elon has not announced any opponent. Elon has been welcoming of companies also making electric cars. Tesla even made a bunch of patents available for other car makers to use. No. Elon's adversary is the complacent stagnation in transportation and energy. If he saw China as the enemy, he certainly would not have built a plant in China.
    There hardly is any competition in the things he is doing. Bezos is sort of a competitor, and Bill Gates. I don't think he sees anyone else as competition.

  24. As far as Musk vs China in space I have thought the same thing for years. Personally I think Musk is ahead. As far as Testla vs China in EV's I don't think this is that big a deal. I came the conclusion the EV's were inevitable when someone hired an engineer in Detroit to tear apart two leading ICE cars and a Testla. The result was two large piles of parts for the two ICE's and a small pile for Testla. I sold my oils first, my gas second and my pipelines third. But I have no interest in buying Testla stock but am in the market for an EV. I just see too much competition and advancement in batteries across the board to say there will be a clear winner. Plus the cars are so simple to build once you have the software and manufacturing tools these things are going to be built like computers and other electronic devices with falling prices. The consumer will win worldwide. Only 68% of millenials bother to get a drivier's license so I see huge changes in the way people will travel in the future. I would not count Testla out of that either. I was also disappointed in Blue Origin pushing back the launch the Glenn rocket. I was pleased to see Perseverence land on Mars without some disaster. I am holding my breath for the launch of the hubble telescope replacement. I hope Musk can save Texas but I have my doubts about saving the whole USA.

  25. Elon has specifically thought about SPS as in being against them. Don't remember the reason, but SPS replaces the need for battery and grid system he is selling. The studies have found that launched SPS will not work because of launch costs. O'Neill and all rational plans thus use ISM/ISRU to do it. Starship makes the ISM easier to get started than smaller rockets, no change in plans' sequence. Remember 20-200 TWe needed, no reason to launch that much product. edit: the new DARPA study is looking at 3D printing ISM using Earth launched feed stock. The lighter and better product compared to launching the folded and launchable version is a big improvement, and then adding ISRU is an incremental.

  26. I'm sure that Elon is thinking about SPS. I mean he is definitely thinking about ways to leverage his world leading rockets. SPS is a step up from Starlink in terms of payload to LEO though.

    Perhaps you could look though your SPS knowledge and try to find out how large of a SPS A Starship could put in to LEO, forward the material to Brian and we have a post on it.

    (SPS = Solar Power Satellite)

  27. We won't have a choice if we don't get going. Space Solar, as O'Neill pointed out 50 years ago, is a good place to do that.

  28. "what is the 'fundamental' Nature – simply that which is without humans being around? Too sentimental. Too psuedo-religio-conservationalist." actually, the definition. We can and should do it, by leaving and making more like it. But places for us too. Also, Janov observes (not opines) that healthy people have a live and let live attitude, and competence at meeting their own needs. libertarian. Not all libertarians are healthy! Not all that call themselves "libertarian" are. BUT all healthy people are libertarian.

  29. I don't underestimate Bezos, but he should move faster.

    We only have so many years to live, and even less ones when we care about big enterprises and achievements.

  30. The bottom line is that: it is better to have an 'above average' tech world filled with a variety of choices (perhaps not as coordinated) and therefore having accomplished less (50 people in space independently/ small groups rather than 5,000 together); than a very advanced world with a very narrow, prescriptive, and standardized vision. I believe orbitting 'sububs in a can' requires that unacceptable standardization if it is part of the first 10% of outward colonization rather than the last 10% of when we are already 'Living The Oort' (travel poster idea anyone?). So maybe cylinder in 2450 rather than 2100.

  31. What don't i like? Nothing, but: Too simple. We deserve better.
    For example: What is destroying Nature? Is replacing certain elements with better elements destroying it? denser eco-systems, better trees, better bugs, disabling/ enabling invasive species better. Nature is only the current recipe — 10M years ago it was different recipes, 5M years ahead, without human exposure, it would be different still — what is the 'fundamental' Nature – simply that which is without humans being around? Too sentimental. Too psuedo-religio-conservationalist.
    Other example: Libertarian. Of all the generic ideological flavours, this is my favourite, but it is fundamentally flawed. Too flavoured with anti-establishment tendancies (my way or the highway). Too confrontational. Too unlikely to embrace intellectual/ practical collaboration to allow achieving a common goal. I would prefer Individualist. More like Elon. More like Ayn Rand. More like Thiel. I certainly admit to much overlap and simplification; but there it is.

  32. Musk can't hire them all. There ought to be more emphasis on STEM careers and less on financier rent-seeking opportunities and what are basically speculation/gambling careers. The tax policy rewards the latter, as do the outsized ROIs. This is all backwards, and is stripping the country of its best and brightest, while skills and infrastructure erode away.

  33. Not convinced that it is so much Elon vs China as much as: what/who can China emulate (using PC term here rather than my true feelings) to achieve certain 'world ranking' goals in technology, wealth, and cultural/ideological perceptions (more Space than automotive). As China is mostly reactionary rather than proactive (something that will be a benefit in some circumstances and a hinderance in most others), Elon is an easy choice – low security installations, an approach to tech that emphasizes simplicity and cost-effectiveness, a flair for dramatic propaganda, etc. China would never succeed trying to emulate DARPA, eDARPA, the US military, NASA/ ESA, Boeing/Northrop Gr.., Lockheed, etc… There is a time for tech to advance cheap and intense/focussed (i.e. when the tech currently exists but is uncoordinated and underfunded and unmotivated – obviously satellites, EVs, and rockets) and a time where huge breakthroughs will need amazing people in amazing labs acting amazingly (bio, AI, quantum, new propulsions, new energy sources, comp sci in AI coordination, etc.). Its all about the availabilty and productivity of these amazing labs to unleash proof of concept and near-commercialization stuff… and that is where China falls far short.

  34. "how they should live and what the nature of their relationship should be to Mother Earth" they should/will live as libertarians, to the extent they are not neurotic. We won't have to worry about about Space if we get the Primal Science wrong. Janov sez healthy people would never destroy Nature for mere profit. Leave the Earth to save it. What don't you like there?

  35. Thanx! Quick scan looks like there will be more about Janov than Space. You think O'Neill is radical!
    edit" Imagine an enormous O’Neill habitat is constructed, with the inner
    surface given over to forests, meadows, trails, and gardens. There are a
    few cabins artfully distributed around the landscape. Almost everyone
    lives below decks in minimalist apartments, but everyone gets a week in a picturesque cabin several times per year." See, he does not understand O'Neill. The description is how Earth looks from an O'Neill perspective. Tiny. Also, the cultural stuff is inane from Primal perspective.

  36. Though I do not fundamentally support your end-game desires, values, or motivations when we start getting large amounts of people into space and how they should live and what the nature of their relationship should be to Mother Earth, I point you to some fascinating discussions on the varying routes different political/ cultural ideologies may follow in 'opening up' space cultural expansion:
    It's a long and verbose and navel-gazing-type read – but a fascinating analysis of where we are, could be, and how that could impact access to a space civilization.

  37. Electric vehicles will only help China clean up its air pollution problems to a limited extent. The electricity required to charge the electric vehicles still needs to be produced by burning some sort of fuel. The switch from burning gasoline and diesel in vehicles will be switched to burning fuel oil and coal in the power plants. The only difference will be the fuel will now be burned outside of the cities, out in the countryside. Thus air pollution in the city will improve somewhat, but air pollution in the countryside will increase an equal amount, thus net zero.

  38. Dump the nuclear nonsense. It’s dead without money and almost no one will put any up. You don’t have to like that, but reality stems from people’s wallets.

  39. If lithium batteries and electric cars displace oil and combustion engine cars?

    Do you hunt your dinner with a club whilst wearing animal furs or do you go to the market? I’m pretty sure the first statement and the second part of the previous sentence will become the norm.

  40. "EGS" ?
    Please expand that acronym so I know what you are talking about & so can have some idea whether your claim has any validity.

  41. Interesting. I looked up the company just now and both the founders worked supply chain at Tesla. Hmm. China isn't the only one copying Tesla. Maybe the entire NextBigFuture community can ban together to make our own gigafactory quickly before everyone else does.

  42. I don't know about an R&D shortage in the United States, but there are more engineering graduates in the US than can find jobs.

  43. One more little data point with regards to battery production…

    In Sweden, there is a new company, NORTHVOLT founded in 2016 by some entrepeneur with the intention of building batteries Tesla-style with vertically integrated gigafactories. As with any big projects in socialistic countries, it becomes partly dependent on tax money. Anyway, the factory now sits there on the ground in northern Sweden and will go online in 2021. Production will ramp to 32 GWh by 2024 and up to 40 later. Sweden has car production (Volvo – now owned by china) and a substantial fraction of wind power in the energy mix so the need for batteries is huge. I guess someone saw the light before it was too late.

    The second NORTHVOLT factory will be in Germany and is some sort of co-op with Volkswagen. That one will go online in 2024 at 16 GWh

  44. The u.s. does not need fission for zero emissions. EGS gets us there. Certain people are wish casting. Thanks to Covid China and the rest of the world lost their last opportunity and are toast.

  45. 1 middle-aged man vs. China. The entire country has key man risk! I sincerely hope Musk can continue doing what he's doing, but seriously, America is majorly deficient in R&D entrepreneurs doing real material stuff, not just virtual apps that no one really needs and are mostly hype for financiers.
    Neil Degrass Tyson makes this point too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXcgBfi4xxo
    Why can't we turn out 100 Musks? For the same reason China is turning out more engineers and its government is mostly engineers too, not failed lawyers and businessmen, and loonies like the U.S.

  46. Of course, if the future is Space Energy, aka Space Solar, and H, then who can say who will do it? Now, people are saying it would have been nice to beam energy into Texas. Minerals are getting scarce for batteries, at least on Earth. Grid electricity to power batteries instead of H pipelines and power beaming? Really? Who sez?

  47. Terrapower would be a better comparison, since it's owned by Bill Gates. Their proposed reactor has some things in common with Moltex's. They both have fuel in vented tubes, so the fission gases can escape without overpressurising the tubes after only a few percent of potential burnup. They both use plutonium with fast fission, in Terrapower brewed from depleted or natural uranium in the reactor, with Moltex, processed out of spent fuel from current reactors. Both have fuel shuffling while the reactor is still operating. Main differences are TP use metal fuel and sodium coolant, Moltex use molten chloride fuel and fluoride coolant. Terrapower was working on an alternative design using molten chloride fuel, though not in fuel tubes.
    I would have bet on Bill Gates' crew, him having the money and all, but getting slung out of China was a setback, and I heard his molten chloride team was laying people off.

  48. I'm just saying….

    In the right country, with sufficient access to fuel, and some room to make a mistake or two, we could get the next generation of nuclear plants perfected in a few years instead of the current multi-decadal zero-risk approach.

    Build some stuff and see what breaks already. Permitting and modeling for perfection is just a way to suffocate progress.

  49. Well — there's Moltex's Stable Salt Reactor, which strikes me as pretty much the type of thing that Musk would come up with anyhow: Multiple existent concepts, each combined to cancel out the weakness of the others, so you end up with the biggest, safest bang, for the least buck of all.

    Fission doesn't suffer for a want of good concepts.

  50. At some point the comparison of a country with 1.4 billion people and a divorced guy with 6 sons starts to get strained. Elon isn’t doing anything in fission energy so China having a lead isn’t hard. Maybe one of his kids can take that on.

  51. China has a big lead over Musk on fission energy.

    Orders of magnitude more important than rockets or batteries for achieving emissions reductions.

  52. All the Elon rah-rah (not just around here) gets tiresome after a while.

    But it's undeniable that he's the only one moving humanity into a different kind of future right now, besides of China. Even Russia has somehow quitted the game by now.

    Seems that as a civilization, the dreams of expansion into real space have simply withered and stopped anywhere else.

    Advances seem to go strongly in the realms of the very small (silicon, biotechnology, nanotech), and equally small are the futures we are heading into, curiously.

    A world of ever perfected bioscience and an hegemonic dominion by our billionaire overlords and political despots and systems, using their machine learning servants for spying on our every move, removing and punishing wrong think, can certainly be a technically sophisticated one, but it's also kind of unappealing.

    We were promised a future of cubic expansion into space. With unlimited growth, using the unlimited riches that we know are out there in space, pouring from the Sun and floating up there on the asteroids and planets.

    That future seems to be knocking on the door again, thanks to a geeky billionaire that won't quit on that dream.

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