The Fast Track to Fusion Power

 

Chris Llewellyn Smith

 

Abstract: World energy use is predicted to double in the next 40 years.  Today, 80% is provided by burning fossil fuels, but this is not sustainable indefinitely because i) it is driving climate change, and ii) fossil fuels will eventually be exhausted (starting with oil).  The resulting potential energy crisis requires increased investment in energy research and development (which is currently very small on the scale of the $3 trillion p.a. energy market, and falling).  The wide portfolio of energy work that should be supported must include fusion, which is one of very few options that are capable in principle of supplying a large fraction of need in an environmentally responsible manner.  The case for fusion has been strengthened by recent advances in plasma physics and fusion technology and by studies of fusion power plants that address safety and cost issues.  The big questions are – How can we deliver fusion power as fast as possible?  How long is it likely to take?  I will review progress in fusion, and argue for a focussed “fast-track” programme that could deliver a working prototype power station in under 30 years.