Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bussard Fusion looking more promising

So EMC2 -- the company Robert Bussard started to prove his fusion power concept -- has completed a small-scale test of Bussard's original design. This was the design that Bussard completely tested and got positive results shortly before the contract ran out, and spent the next year trying to drum up funding to continue his work. He died before the work could begin again, but the first results since EMC2 restarted are, apparently, quite promising:
By and large, the EMC2 results fit Bussard's theoretical predictions, Nebel said. That could mean Polywell fusion would actually lead to a power-generating reaction. But based on the 10-month, shoestring-budget experiment, the team can't rule out the possibility that a different phenomenon is causing the observed effects.

"If you want to say something absolutely, you have to say there's no other explanation," Nebel said. The review board agreed with that conservative assessment, he said.

The good news, from Nebel's standpoint, is that the WB-7 experiment hasn't ruled out the possibility that Polywell fusion could actually serve as a low-cost, long-term energy solution. "If this thing was absolutely dead in the water, we would have found out," he said.
I've never been so adamantly anti-nuclear that I couldn't support something new and better, and damn if IEC fusion doesn't fit that bill nicely.

One open question is whether it will perform quite as well as is hoped. For example, it might be able to fuse a deuterium-tritium reaction (one of the easiest) but not Hydrogen-Boron (more difficult, but doesn't produce many neutrons and thus doesn't need as much shielding.) If D-T fusion is the best we can do, a heavy neutron source might still have its uses, like this bright idea from MIT: hybrid nuclear power that can safely dispose of the nuclear waste from conventional reactors and nuclear weapons. If, in the far future, we run out of nuclear waste to dispose of, the design could run on natural or depleted uranium as well.


M. Simon said...

D-D is probably a good bet with the BFR.

I don't like D-T because of the T limitations.

pB11 is a longer shot. As you point out.

A good place to keep up with the technology is:

IEC Fusion Technology blog

M. Simon said...

And what I want to know is:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?