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Is limitless clean energy within reach?

Alternative Energy

In today’s world, there’s an ongoing effort to find realistic and persistent sources of limitless clean energy. Chinese researchers are working hard on a quest to make their country a leading destination for it.

The researchers are working with a nuclear fusion reactor in Anhui, located in China’s Eastern region, and hope to have a fully functioning nuclear fusion power plant by 2050.

Known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), people sometimes call the fusion reactor an “artificial sun” while recognizing the amount of heat and power it produces.

Nuclear fusion refers to a process where the heat from nuclear fusion reactions — where two lightweight atoms with positive charges combine into a bigger one — generate electricity. The fusion reactor captures that energy.

A couple of notable firsts

EAST has a history of making headlines with its achievements. In 2017, it attracted attention for being the first nuclear fusion facility in the world that sustained specific conditions necessary for fusion longer than 100 seconds.

Then, in November 2018, another first made it exceptionally clear why some people think of the EAST as being like the sun. It reached a temperature of more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is six times hotter than the sun’s core.

The extreme heat is a feat that’s integral to the overall success of this project. Since the atoms both have positive charges, they repel each other. Scientists then have to figure out ways to make them collide.

Heat increases the chances of collisions because atoms move faster when they heat up. So, when EAST got hot enough in that case, it sustained nuclear fusion for about 10 seconds.

EAST is a testbed

It’s important to clarify here that scientists don’t think EAST itself solely represents the world’s clean energy future. The doughnut-shaped reactor is only a few meters across. However, scientists hope that the things they learn from it will help further limitless clean energy advancements.

The scientists working on this project know they must overcome numerous obstacles. One of them is the need to figure out how to make a nuclear fusion reactor offer more energy than what’s required to heat it up, and that milestone still seems far away.

To put things in perspective, consider that the instance where the reactor surpassed 180 million degrees required more than 10 megawatts — which could power 1,640 U.S. homes for a year.

EAST wouldn’t be the reactor for the power plant that may operate by 2050. Instead, the Chinese researchers plan to build a separate one for that goal of commercial viability.

Reports say financial sources offered 6 billion yuan, or the equivalent of $890 million, for the proposed power plant. If experts can figure out how to make it work, the power plant and others like it could change how people get energy.

Thinking about the future

Nuclear fusion energy promises emissions-free, endlessly available power with less of the risks associated with today’s power plants. Once more progress happens, scientists might apply it to other uses in the energy sector, too.

For example, today’s portable energy solutions give power to construction sites, festival grounds, disaster recovery zones and more. It’d certainly be advantageous to harness clean energy for generators, as well.

Thanks in part to EAST, China is part of a much larger project called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The multibillion-dollar collaborative effort of 35 countries, ITER involves making a nuclear reactor in France. It’ll hopefully be the first device of its kind that can maintain fusion for long periods. It’ll also investigate using numerous disciplines, such as mathematics and physics, to move nuclear fusion energy forward.

Some of the findings at EAST and other nuclear fusion sites will give ITER researchers a better idea of what’s feasible and what won’t work. Chinese representatives acknowledge that nuclear fusion test sites in Japan and the United States are further along overall with some aspects of their goals.

With EAST, China hopes to reassert itself as a nation not content to play catch-up with other countries striving for limitless clean energy. It wants to be one of the leading players in the crucial fight to find more sustainable energy sources.

Potential exists, but patience is necessary

Some nuclear fusion experts think people could see this option emerging as a major source of power within decades, and that in itself is exciting. However, the extraordinary costs and the fact that scientists have not yet determined how to make fusion power persist long enough without being prohibitively energy-intensive are some of the barriers.

Those obstacles mean people must be patient as developments continue, but they should not feel discouraged and believe nuclear fusion is wholly unrealistic as a potential power source.

16 Comments on "Is limitless clean energy within reach?"

  1. Anonymouse on Sat, 4th May 2019 8:33 pm 

    More lies, and I am not talking about demented Davy and his kosher lapdog this time.

    I mean this gem from the article. One of many.

    “Nuclear fusion energy promises emissions-free, endlessly available power with less of the risks associated with today’s power plants”

    No, fusion does not promise *any* of those things. It really doesn’t. Nuclear fission made all sorts of grandiose promises as well, how do the those promises stack up against the reality? Nuclear fission has been an environmental, economic and human disaster. Fusion = Fission, at 10x the cost, if not more, no one really knows for certain. After nearly a century of ‘progress’, nuclear fission is getting more expensive, more complex, and its waste products are still not being dealt with in anything like a remotely safe manner. Nuclear fission is so successful, nobody wants a nuclear power plant anywhere near them, and everyone balks on the costs and overruns of the few new ones that are getting built or are proposed. And that does not even get into the costs of de-commissioning your typical nuke. That is a bill nobody wants to, or can afford to pay. Which helps explain why rusting, decrepit nuclear power stations in the amerikan empire keep getting ‘life extensions’ tacked onto their operating licences by the corrupt government agencies in charge of ‘regulating’ the industry.

    But, FUSION, that will be totally different. Clean, limitless with no downsides. Well, none with mentioning anyhow. None at all. Really.

  2. makati1 on Sat, 4th May 2019 9:50 pm 

    ” The claim that nuclear electricity would be “too cheap to meter” is not apocryphal: That’s what Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, told the National Association of Science Writers in New York in September of that year. And equally audacious claims were still to come. In 1971, Glenn Seaborg, a Nobelist and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission then, predicted that nuclear reactors would generate nearly all the world’s electricity by 2000. Seaborg envisioned giant coastal “nuplexes” desalinating sea water, geostationary satellites powered by compact nuclear reactors for broadcasting TV programs, nuclear-powered tankers, and nuclear explosives that would alter the flow of rivers and excavate underground cities. Meanwhile, nuclear propulsion would carry men to Mars.”

    Bullshit by the trainload to sell reactors that would produce nuclear materials for bombs. I remember the TV commercials selling cheap nuclear electric. Never happened. Never will. Ditto for Fusion, IF it ever proves possible.

  3. Cloggie on Sun, 5th May 2019 4:47 am 

    The weekly (con)fusion article, always with the same content…


    –> send more money.

  4. Chrome Mags on Sun, 5th May 2019 8:57 am 

    “The researchers are working with a nuclear fusion reactor in Anhui, located in China’s Eastern region, and hope to have a fully functioning nuclear fusion power plant by 2050.”

    Reminds me of a scene from a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, in which angel eyes says, “I generally smoke after my meal. Why don’t you come back in about ten minutes.”

    The bad guy then says, “In ten minutes you’ll be smoking in hell.”

    In 2050 there will likely be only ruins left of what was the worldwide civilization of BAU we know today. If the goal was 2030, then maybe we wouldn’t be smoking in hell yet, maybe.

  5. Cloggie on Sun, 5th May 2019 11:20 am 

    It began in 2013 with a bicycle road, now bus lanes are next: SolaRoad. One m2 road can generate 90 kWh per year. One third of all Dutch roads equipped with solarpanels (panel=road) suffice to power all vehicles in the Netherlands:

  6. peakyeast on Tue, 7th May 2019 6:36 am 

    Oh no … not solar road again… Just about the dumbest place to put something that you want to last a long time…

  7. Davy on Tue, 7th May 2019 6:38 am 

    “Oh no … not solar road again… Just about the dumbest place to put something that you want to last a long time…”

    Just one of many bad ideas on his bad idea WordPress but at least he has ideas. juanpee and annoy are brain dead.

  8. Cloggie on Tue, 7th May 2019 7:00 am 

    “Oh no … not solar road again… Just about the dumbest place to put something that you want to last a long time…”

    Perhaps it is a dumb idea, but you have to explore it first and conclude afterwards.

    Explain your objections without resorting to the word “dumb” only.

    What is it that doesn’t last long, panel or road function?

    Holland is over-crowded, soil is hyper-expensive and rare. We cannot afford to waste agricultural soil on huge panel arrays. Money we have enough, not soil, hence solaroad.

  9. Cloggie on Tue, 7th May 2019 8:21 am 

    Solaroad doesn’t make sense in the US, but poststamp country Holland is different. For cost analysis see:

  10. Davy on Tue, 7th May 2019 8:23 am 

    solar road does not make sense anywhere. There are other ways to integrate solar into the landscape besides roads.

  11. Cloggie on Tue, 7th May 2019 9:30 am 

    Like which, great thinker?

    Meanwhile, the EU has just pumped millions of fresh money into Solaroad:

    They would not have done that if they saw no long-term prospects in the technology.

  12. Antius on Tue, 7th May 2019 12:01 pm 

    Even in Holland the solar road makes no sense.

    Unless you are growing narcotics, a square metre of land covered in solar panels will generate far more economic value than the equivalent area of cropland. What is more, large parts of the Netherlands is pasture land, producing food quite inefficiently. It would make more sense displacing a small part of the country’s agriculture and then importing a little extra food. There isn’t really any kind of national security issue for a country doing that in modern Europe.

    The extra difficulty in engineering a photovoltaic road surface that produces power efficiently for years, resisting impact and flexural forces, whilst still functioning adequately as a road surface; makes the solar road a poor prospect compared to the alternative. Any road surface that receives truck traffic needs to stand up to a hefty beating.

    Solar PV is cheapest if developed in large scale solar farms producing tens or hundreds of MW. The same principle is true for wind power. Small scale niche solutions like roads and rooftop units, are not cost effective in comparison.

  13. peakyeast on Tue, 7th May 2019 12:37 pm 

    @Cloggie: EU and governments puts billions into crap that never succeeds and that is bound to be forever stupid.

    Holland and others have plenty of space where there is no need for constructing roads that are super-duper durable.

    Even putting them out on the ocean would be a better solution.

    The solarroad has been tried all over the world and only in Holland are people stupidly rich enough to venture on with this project.

  14. peakyeast on Tue, 7th May 2019 12:45 pm 

    And, of course, they would. It depends just on who is involved in the project.

    10million DKR was just given to test some pipes that should prevent erosion of the beach. They have been tested before several times by experts and they do not work.

    So many things today depend on knowing the “right people”.

    So the politicians give 10mio. to a proven bad idead – and those appointed to test it has refused to do it because its proven they do not work..

    Politicians do not care about usefulness.

    They care about their friends and their own careers.

  15. Antius on Tue, 7th May 2019 1:04 pm 

    Getting back to the topic of this article ‘Is limitless clean energy within reach?’

    No. Nothing limitless is within reach and it would be a disaster for the planet if it were.

    The Integral Fast Reactor could have provided abundant clean energy and had demonstrated all of the important elements of a passively safe, closed reactor cycle when the Clinton administration deliberately destroyed the project back in 1994. The Green idealists in the donkey party, knew that a large-scale build-up of renewable energy would have been unworkable, when there was a cheaper more power-dense option on the table that did all the same things but better. So they made sure that it was thoroughly dead.

    Pure fusion is a difficult proposition as a workable energy source. In addition to the plasma instability problems and the issue of converting fast neutron energy into electricity; the problem remains that the power density of a tokamak would be at least an order of magnitude lower than a bog standard light-water reactor. Compared to fast neutron reactors, the gap is larger still. Would it ever be cheaper to build something a hundred times the size, to do exactly the same job?

  16. Cloggie on Tue, 7th May 2019 4:08 pm 

    The solarroad has been tried all over the world and only in Holland are people stupidly rich enough to venture on with this project.

    Is that so? I’m only aware of projects in France and the US. Both countries have more than enough space, unlike Holland.

    I think it is way too early to dismiss the idea:

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