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Len Rosen's picture
Principal Author and Editor 21st Century Tech Blog

Futurist, Writer and Researcher, now retired, former freelance writer for new technology ventures. Former President & CEO of Len Rosen Marketing Inc., a marketing consulting firm focused on...

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  • Sep 1, 2021
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We need a Manhattan Project Plus to make fusion reactors part of the desired zero-emission outcome by mid-century. Why this is not a bigger deal than it is today is beyond me. Is it because the whole nuclear power industry is tainted by past accidents and spent fuel rods? Or is it because the general public doesn't understand the differences between fusion and fission energy? Because nuclear fusion is not nuclear fission. And although the investment needed is significant, the payoff for our planet will be enormous. Fusion reactors would produce zero emissions. With sourcing low-carbon materials and using low-emission supply chains, even construction could produce limited contributions to atmospheric warming.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 1, 2021

We need a Manhattan Project Plus to make fusion reactors part of the desired zero-emission outcome by mid-century

Makes sense when the Manhattan Project sowed the seeds for DOE in the first place, though with the public/political hesitance on nuclear because of the association with accidents/weapons, I think we'll want some rebranding!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 2, 2021

"We need a Manhattan Project Plus to make fusion reactors part of the desired zero-emission outcome by mid-century. Why this is not a bigger deal than it is today is beyond me."

I can help with that one, Len. There are several reasons.

  1. We still don't know if nuclear fusion is possible. It's quite possible that a sustained, controlled fusion reaction will be impossible in any reasonable timeframe. It gives off so much energy it literally vaporizes everything in its proximity, in a time span measured in billionths of a second. I can imagine running a one-minute mile - but even if I had $billions to spend on the best trainers, facilities, and equipment, it just ain't ever going to happen.
  2. It's an unnecessary waste of time and investment. Nuclear fission can provide all the energy humans will need for the foreseeable future.
  3. We don't have time to 'wait and see'. Every dollar spent on fusion research could go towards building hundreds of safe, affordable fission reactors based on a proven technology. But our ongoing inability to come to grips with climate change is leaving our descendants a future of disappearing food supplies, armed conflict, and misery (yes, it reall is that bad). And there is no turning back.

The Manhattan Project should be one of informing the public of the real risks of nuclear fission, and why they pale in comparison to the risks of continuing inaction on climate.

Many people have a seriously warped perception of risk when it comes to nuclear energy. For example: Nevadans protest the placement of a nuclear spent fuel repository at Yucca Mountain, believing spent fuel might seep into the water supply 1,000 years in the future and poison their lovely state.

Without immediate action on climate, their descendants will have nothing to worry about in 1,000 years because they will all be dead. In fact, climatologists estimate in as little as 100 years, daytime summer temperatures in southwest deserts could exceed 160°F - then their state would be uninhabitable anyway.

It's all about perspective.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Sep 6, 2021

I recently saw another article on fusion here.  In it, the author notes that we already have the nuclear fission technology we need to provide the abundant clean energy we need to combat climate change.  However, he suggests that we still need fusion to combat the wrong-headed ideology of Malthus, which would have us believe that humanity will eventually run out of material resources (abundant energy is presumed to be a prerequisite of widespread recycling, seawater desalination, etc; and fuel for fusion, like that for fission, is available in inexhaustible quantities from seawater, however, fusion fuel, deuterium is several order of magnitude more inexhaustible).

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