The Sun is a natural fusion reactor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Earlier in the week the US Lockheed Martin Corporation released a report in which it claimed to have made a technological breakthrough in the development of a nuclear fusion reactor.
They say that this is so significant that they could indeed have the first reactors up and running within ten years. These would be small enough to fit on the back of a truck and comprise 100-megawatt reactors that at 7 x 10 feet ate only one tenth the size of conventional reactors.
Project head Tom McGuire and his team work deep inside the secretive Skunk Works and have spent four years reaching the point where potential partners in industry and government need to be found to take the project further. Lockheed say that they will have testing being done on a compact fusion reactor before September 2015 and that by 2020 a prototype will be built.
Since current estimates are that energy needs will increase by half or more by the middle of this century the development of real fusion power could have a massive influence on future electricity generation. Lockheed have spent six decades researching nuclear fusion. It is widely regarded as a safer and more efficient potential energy source than current nuclear fission reactors.
This project and others like it around the globe are seen a vital element in a comprehensive effort to address problems associated with global energy needs and climate change. The fact is that nuclear fusion reactors produce far less waste than fossil-fuel-powered plants, employing instead deuterium-tritium fuel, which can generate nearly 10 million times more energy.
Lockheed commented that the hydrogen isotope that is ultra-dense deuterium is common in the oceans, and vast natural lithium deposits can be spent in making tritium so that there would be no shortage of non-radioactive fuel. Patents are pending and there is a great deal of excitement at the news that the company could, within a year have designed, build and tested the technology with a view to having an operational reactor in action before 2025.
When one considers that such a compact reactor could power a warship well enough to eliminate the need for other fuel sources you can appreciate how much more lean and mean these vessels could be engineered in future. the possibilities for this technology, if proven, are both endless and mouth-watering. Deep space travel might then well be so much closer to reality and that really would be cause for celebration.
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