Back in February of this year Dr. Charles Chase of Lockheed’s Skunk Works did a little presentation on Google’s Solve for X program. Fair warning before you go, Dr. Chase’s presentation is boring. Or rather his style is boring. His message, on the other hand, could be revolutionary.
Now if you’re sorta geeky you may already have seen this, but if not here’s the gist. Dr. Chase claims he and his team can (and perhaps will) have a prototype 100MW ‘clean’ fusion reactor available by 2017. Clean as in no radioactive output or waste.
As though that’s not a large enough kicker, the system will be the size of a semi trailer, and so be capable of pre-construction techniques. Build it, ship it to destination, fire it up. There are a lot of geek claims about what was said but most aren’t really there. They’re interpretation – if it’s that small it must be portable, and there are wild guesses about it being ‘cheap’ that aren’t really mentioned anywhere.
Also not mentioned is the waste heat issue. Hey, a small sun isn’t going to be mistaken for an air conditioner.
All that noted, it’s quite the potential game changer. How much heat would a 100MW fusion generator produce in comparison to a 100MW coal plant? And when you take carbon waste into account which is going to be the real problem? And portable in use or not it’s portable in delivery.
The big caveat is if. If this isn’t another “just ten more years to fusion” presentation like we’ve seen for half a century (or more). That’s a fair way to bet after all.
On the other hand, Skunkworks still has a name and reputation. Even their known failures are ‘works but needs modification/improvements’. It makes me cautiously optimistic that this might happen. And if it does, well, I think that the following five years will see a lot of anti-nuke messages from oil, coal, and natural gas.