Peak Oil is You

Donate Bitcoins ;-) or Paypal :-)

Page added on March 26, 2012

Bookmark and Share

US cuts domestic funding for fusion research

Listen Now Listen Now

President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year would cut funding for domestic fusion research in order to fund ITER, a multi-national fusion research project in France. That could mean lost jobs and a more limited market for physicists at research facilities like the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

Nuclear fusion is often referred to as the “energy of the future,” but proposed budget cuts in the 2013 fiscal year, which will start in October, threaten to delay the energy future.

Steven Dean, president of Fusion Power Associates, said President Barack Obama’s proposed budget would cut $50 million from domestic test fusion reactors, like the Alcator C-Mod at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and reallocate funding to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France.

ITER is an international project funded by seven parties including the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States. Costs are skyrocketing, and Dean is worried about the potential consequences the budget cuts will have.

“It’s going to be a disaster if it comes to pass. It’s a very severe cut. They’re already proposing to shut down one of our three major facilities at MIT, and it will keep us from being prepared to really utilize ITER. It’s going to discourage students from getting into the field because they won’t see the prospects of working here in the United States,” Dean said.

The cuts won’t just hurt scientists and grad students looking for work, though. While there are other tokamaks — a doughnut shaped device that uses magnetic fields to confine plasma in an attempt to create nuclear fusion — around the world that may be able to provide research for ITER, Dean said the C-Mod is unique in its construction.

“MIT certainly had a unique plasma. Most of the other tokamaks are lower density plasmas, lower magnetic field plasmas, and so the MIT program had staked out a niche of its own. So, to lose that program, I think, is an important potential hole in the international physics development,” Dean said.

ITER is designed as a test reactor, meaning it won’t ever produce commercial energy. However, Dean said it’s a necessary step in eventually creating a commercial reactor. The reactor is expected to cost more than 15 billion euros, and setbacks created by not funding domestic research. Dean does believe ITER will eventually be successful.

“The world scientific community is very confident that this will eventually work out. It’s just the schedule remains unsure, and part of the problem is that fusion is going to be expensive, even when it is successful,” Dean said. “And therefore it’s going to have to compete against other energy sources, so exactly when and how it’s going to be able to crack the market is also quite a bit uncertain.”


4 Comments on "US cuts domestic funding for fusion research"

  1. BillT on Tue, 27th Mar 2012 1:13 am 

    Fusion is about 50 years too late. By the time they figure out, if it is even possible on a usable scale, the world will have passed the point of no return on energy and will not have the resources to exploit what is discovered.

    We went with fission so that the government could make weapons, not energy. Had we gone with fusion then, it may be our main energy source today. War profits trump energy.

  2. DC on Tue, 27th Mar 2012 4:17 am 

    Yes, its funny when you consider something else about fusion. Its not clear to me exactly *what* energy crisis fusion is supposed to solve anyhow. We do not suffer from any imediate electrical generation problems, but rather, a liquid FF problem. Fusion, while it would produce power to be sure, wouldnt really address any of the liquid fuels problem. Though you do hear fusion boosters say nonsense like, with fusion, we can make the hydrogen we want and run a few billion cars that way. Sure, with electricty that will cost 10x mores than that from fission, which is allready susidized up the wazoo.

    Fusion will just be far too costly even if we do figure it out someday. People will be given a choice, you can heat your home with this cheap D grade dirt were calling coal now, or you can spend a few trillion dollars(not adjusted for inflation) on a string of fusion stations that will be prob be off-line 50% of the time due to critical failures in on of its thousands of sub-systems. Oyea and the cost for the electricty will make $20.00 a gallon for gas look like pennies on the sidewalk.

    Yup no fusion tech-NO-fix is my guess…

  3. PETE on Tue, 27th Mar 2012 7:36 am 

    thorium safe easy plus china and India sit on top of huge amounts. Oops I forgot sask. next province over from me is the biggest uranium miner in the world. Don’t want to give up that top spot. sorry disregard post. HAIL HARPER.

  4. BillT on Tue, 27th Mar 2012 9:32 am 

    Pete, perhaps thorium has a chance, but if it requires a large financial investment for each reactor, it may be too little too late. When the world’s interlocked financial system collapses, there will not be billions to invest in anything. WE will be resetting to a much lower GDP and life style.

    Keep in mind that a reactor requires many millions of tons of ores to be mined, refined, and made into the components to build it, not to mention the fuel. Considering that, from the ground to the poured product, it takes a barrel of oil to make 1 cubic meter of concrete … think about the energy needed to build just one nuclear plant, not to mention the thousands it would take to maintain even some of our current life style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *