1. There are a number of extreme risk, extremely high payoff approaches to fusion(such as polywell). You can’t count on any of these approaches to ever be useful; you certainly shouldn’t plan a grid around them, but that doesn’t mean they should be written off entirely.

  2. I don’t know if the lack of control of the fusion process can be overcome in the near future. Even a large tokamak, like the planned ITER, may be able to contain plasma for only a few seconds. And with fission, the issue of scale up (and again control) and energy balance (how much you put in v/s what you get out) will always exit.
    The national ignition facility is, IMHO, a waste of taxpayer money. Problems in fusing a small pellet with a lot of lasers are going to become more difficult to deal with as you scale up the facility, if it ever comes to that.
    As an aside, for those interested, the book “Sun in a Bottle” by Charles Seife is a decent review (and critique) of all past and present fusion attempts.

    1. The NIF has never been about sustained fusion for power. It is and always has been about maintaining our nuclear weapon stockpile. The value to the taxpayer is the confidence that our leaders and allies have in our ability to maintain a nuclear deterrent. We could resume underground nuclear testing, but I doubt the public would support that.

      1. @John – that is certainly true, but the people who have been pushing funding for the NIF certainly have no qualms about selling the need for the investment as an energy program.
        I would support a return to actual testing to ensure stockpile reliability. Of course, I am generally in the minority.

  3. A small correction here — while most everyone arees ITER and NIF will never lead to economically competitive fusion power, the same is not true of Bussard’s Polywell, or the FRC efforts being financed by a Paul Allen. These are “high beta” designs, which means they will have plant power densities much better than those planned on the ITER path, and are much more likely to be economically competitive if they work.

  4. When in doubt about the process don’t use the F U S I O N word. This keeps the critics in the dark about the magical process going on inside your steam power plant. After all W O R K is the other word many hate to here. An operating steam power plant doing W O R K via some dark process is at least doing something. Whilst work is being done the magicians just smile and paint the plant green. What ever is the word for F U S I O N in Russian?
    They presently call it the green Steam Machine and let it go at that.

  5. I’m still a fan for the DPF approach which our government has totally ignored. I’m sure that it will be the best approach which why the government shows no interest. DPF doesn’t use a turbine but a kind of transformer so it ain’t your grandpa’s fusion reactor design.
    You are certainly right what nobody for the next 20-50 years should be planning any grid around fusion.
    LFTR should be receiving the most funding but I frankly think that all nuclear R&D needs to be stepped up. Contrary to what most people think the government is not revenue constrained and they are more than willing to spend trillions on oil and geopolitics around the world. I think main problem is the ignorance of basic science. Cupidity and Stupidity make the world a needy place.

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