CRITICISM OF THE FUSION ENERGY RESEARCH PROGRAM

Criticism of Fusion Energy Research
THE BRINGERS OF FIRE
The Plasma Fusion Energy Research Program: Promising fire, delivering ash


Iter: Magnetically confined hot plasma fusion energy research reactor
(ITER = International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)

Copyright 2002-2010 by Bibhas R. De


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Preface

It is not fair to criticize a complex scientific program lightly – or without proper understanding of the full measure of the complexities. The fact that, at any given time, a program has not yet borne the promised fruit cannot by itself be valid grounds for criticism. If the program has spanned over, and nurtured, generations of scientists without bearing such fruit, that in itself is not a valid ground for criticism. If the program has grown beyond the point where it was still possible to shut it down, there may be explanations for this. If there are no clear individuals to hold accountable for the conduct of the program, this may be an unintended development. If the program has been politicized, that may have been necessary. If it supports a huge government bureaucracy, this may be a decision of the government. If the program has taken on an aspect of complex, high level international collaboration and competition that make it even harder for any critics to dare tackle it, well, too bad for the critics. If its scientific critics are not to be seen anywhere, or are at best mild, it may be that there is nothing to criticize. But when all of the above attributes are simultaneously present in a single, publicly-funded program with a clearly defined deliverable to benefit human society, there is a legitimate question that should and must be asked: What kind of an enterprise is this?

There are today many story lines and fortifications in place to deter and detract the public from asking this overwhelming question. The fusion energy research program has developed the character of an amorphous techno-beast the will protect itself any way it can.

If scientists collectively wanted to bilk the public, they could do so with great sophistry, in two ways: the Bogeyman Scam or the scare tactic, and the Carrot Scam or the reward tactic.

It is now widely discussed that the world-is-coming-to-an-end Global Warming research enterprise may be a Bogeyman Scam. Even some scientists suggest so. This issue has just been given high visibility through the fiction State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I do not know enough about this issue to say one way or the other. I mention this example because it helps place the possibility of a grand-scale scientific scam in the public awareness.

The hot fusion energy research enterprise may be a Carrot Scam. It started as a perfectly legitimate quest for clean, unlimited, inexpensive energy half a century ago, and has had an uninterrupted run. But somewhere along the line its futility would have been clear. Yet it has been kept alive, and even expanded, with continually renewed promises and expanding budgets.

How the Carrot Scam works on Mr. Public

With respect to collective scam by scientists, the public’s only safeguard is that scientific insiders watch out for them. Unfortunately, this is increasingly turning out to be not a good safeguard at all. And the science media is entirely controlled by the scientists.

Finally, there will no doubt be an effort in some quarters to portray me as a rogue individual uncouthly attacking a community of honest, hardworking people. Know such efforts for what they are: A bogus emotional cover for deflecting responsibility. Here is criticism of societal affairs. No persons and no groups are immune from this. Not even the clergy is considered immune. As you will read in my Home page, the physics community is no slouch in attacking others, haughtily calling them impostors, crackpots, cranks and such other names – in public, in print. It is only when they are the "attackee" that they respond with righteous indignation and hurt sentiment.

So what is the real promise of magnetically confined fusion energy research? It is this:

Always the mirage, never the oasis

THE PROMETHEUS PROJECT

Greek god Prometheus brought fire from Heaven to the Earth to benefit the humans. In modern times, it is the fusion energy researchers who have promised us that they will bring unlimited amounts of clean energy – ridding us of all the difficult energy problems that have placed the humans in great peril again here on this planet. This is mankind’s Prometheus Project (Not to be confused with NASA's less appropriately named Project Prometheus). Its promise keeps us warm, as we happily increase our personal energy consumption. Not to worry, our scientists are hard at solving the problem!

Had the public a clearer understanding of what the scientists are hard at, may be they would exercise a little more personal responsibility. It is guaranteed that the energy problem will be greatly eased through individual thrift. And that will come only when we clearly understand that options are nonexistent. To me, it is guaranteed there are no large-scale solutions in the offing other than individual thrift. Not from the fusion researchers, at any rate.

It is difficult to assign a precise age to the hot fusion energy research program. A physics historian may be able to address this question. For our purpose as we stand at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we can say that the age is over half a century – or, say, three generations of scientists. Its beginnings were in academic laboratories as small-scale experiments. Today it is a huge international collaboration aimed at building large machines - large literally and in scope. Here are some of the types of people it employs:

Government bureaucrats
Leaders (Directors)
Support staff
Managerial bureaucrats
Theoretical physicists
Experimental physicists
Computational physicists
Computer professionals
Electrical engineers
Electronics engineers
Mechanical engineers
Nuclear engineers
Reactor engineers
Material science engineers
High vacuum engineers
Technicians of all types
Safety personnel
Security personnel

If you did not know what I am talking about, the above list might make you think of the research arm of the United States Armed Forces. Such is the scope of this program

The program is funded almost in its entirety by the public. As such, it goes through periodic and bureaucratically elaborate reviews – which have all the appearance of toughness and objectivity, and at times even acrimony. Sometimes politicians also make appropriate noises. The public feels that their interest is being safeguarded. In reality, it is “all in the family”. Everyone understands that show must go on. The criticisms are made within that parameter.

The US Fusion Energy Research Program is overseen by a bloated Government bureaucracy – set up ostensibly to look after the interest of the taxpayers. But if you think about it, what or whom do these cushy bureaucrats owe their livelihoods to? They owe it to the continuing maintenance of the program on a lavish scale. So it is crucial to their pocketbook that the program thrive. If powerful persons try to rock the boat, they will try to steady the boat. If insignificant persons try to rock the boat, they will simply crush these persons between their fingers. So, there is basically no oversight of the fusion researchers. They are getting a free ride – and a gravy boat ride at that. Fifty years, hundred years – who is counting?

What we have here is an Academic-Government Complex, like the Military-Industrial Complex.

THE GRAND VIEW

A grand view of the fusion research program might start appropriately with Albert Einstein. He said that small amounts of matter can be converted into enormous amounts of energy.

It was then discovered that large atoms can be split into smaller atoms, releasing such energy in the process. This is “fission energy”, concerned with the elements at the high end of the Periodic Table. There followed the Manhattan Project, and the Atom Bomb – an explosive release of the said energy. Soon scientists realized that we could also make the energy be released in a controlled way, and use it to satisfy our conventional energy needs. Thus we have today the Nuclear Reactors.

But there is another side of this development. It was found that you could also release this energy by making small atoms fuse together, and become larger atoms. This is "fusion energy", concerned with the elements in the low end of the Periodic Table. There followed the Hydrogen Bomb. Soon scientists realized that we could also make the energy be released in a controlled way, and use it to satisfy our conventional energy needs. Thus the promise of fusion energy.

The bombs thus provide us with some type of a calendar of events. The first commercial fission reactor was operating less than 10 years after the first fission bomb was exploded. It has been more than 50 years since the first fusion bomb was exploded. Fusion reactors are still a mirage.

There will be cogent explanations for why this is so. There are always cogent explanations. Within the scientific community, it is well-known that a scientist has a whole bag of tricks with which to snow a non-scientific boss who questions delays or lack of performance. In the case of fusion energy research, they have tricks by the truckload.

The fusion research program, it is very important to note, has never lacked in resources. Generous funds and the highest quality manpower have been plentiful for all these many decades. The technology necessary has always been available. Computation power needed has developed apace. There are absolutely no legitimate excuses in terms of the practical ability to conduct the program. The fission people had far less with which to succeed.

THE FOCUSED VIEW

So, to obtain fusion energy, you have to make two atoms slam into one another with enough force to cause them to fuse into a larger atom. The way to do this is to first strip the atoms into their nuclei, and then cause the nuclei to collide. This is best done in a plasma, a gas so hot that the atoms and molecules have been stripped into ions and electrons. If this plasma is heated to high enough temperatures, the nuclei would have sufficient kinetic energy to fuse when they collide with one another. Thus, the chosen medium of fusion research is gaseous, and not solid or liquid. However, the latter ideas have also been proposed, and pursued in much smaller scales.

Fusing atoms is one aspect. There is another, equally important aspect: How do you contain and harness this fusing plasma? You cannot very well contain it in a metallic vessel. As soon as the plasma touches the wall of the vessel, it will extinguish (i.e. the nuclei and the electrons will recombine to form an ordinary gas). Moreover, the heat released may cause the vessel to melt. So you must keep the fusing plasma from touching all material objects. It turns out that you can do so by means of magnetic field.

Imagine an inner tube that is made of toroidal lines of magnetic field. It bulges under the pressure of the plasma, and reaches equilibrium. This inner tube is contained within the tire – the metallic vessel. This is the basic fusion reactor.

THE THREE FACETS OF HOT FUSION RESEARCH

The Fusion Energy Research Program has three main components:

(1) Basic Science

This comprises of the two basic results: (a) Fusing nuclei produce energy; and (b) magnetic field can confine a fusion plasma. Basic science is today not in question.

(2) Ongoing scientific studies

This is largely applied physics, to do with how the Basic Science will work in a practical environment. Examples of such studies are various confinement schemes (different configurations of our "inner tube"), instability modes of magnetized plasmas (different ways in which the tube can rupture), scaling laws (For example, if you get fusion to work in a small inner tube under some conditions, does it mean it will work in a large inner tube under different conditions?), etc.

(3) Engineering

This concerns the actual development of the fusion device. This is done largely by engineers, with input from experimental physicists. But this distinction between the two groups is not meaningful.

WHERE DO WE STAND TODAY?

Fusion research takes place in its different aspects in the advanced countries around the world. There are experimental "reactors" of various designs that have been in operation for years. Fusion has been achieved for brief periods of time (less than a second). However, there are questions as to whether all these have demonstrated pure fusion in the scientific sense. In one major instance, the fusion has been aided by doping the plasma with what may be called accelerants.

Today, the situation is this: The leaders of the program think they have got the problem solved to the point where they are ready to go to full-scale reactors that will generate sustained fusion. Stated differently, they are saying that they could not generate sustained fusion thus far because they did not have a large enough machine. The centerpiece of the coming effort is the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) program.

So the question arises: Why not wait and see if the large machine actually works? Why not postpone the criticism?

That is exactly the bag of tricks I spoke of. The fusion researchers are always careful to dangle something in front of the public such that criticism should be postponed until after that. If the large machine does not work, and you think it is time to criticize, you will soon find something else dangling. And we are going nowhere. Sure, you can tout incremental achievements, and dangle these carrots in front of the funding public. But I think this is also becoming rather old: Always the mirage, never the oasis.

As you will see below, there are already signs that this large machine business may be a ruse.

GET A PERSPECTIVE

The plasma fusion energy research program can be said, without any exaggeration, to be an attempt to advance the human civilization through science and technology. It is potentially a momentous development, dwarfing even the present-day nuclear energy. So it is reasonable to compare this program with other similar attempts.

In combined terms of the time taken, resources devoted, talent mustered, international scope and lack of progress, the above program has now exceeded the following programs:

The Manhattan Project
The Human Genome Project
Any space program (e.g. manned space flight)
Any drug development program (cancer research has partially benefited society)
Any medical technology program (e.g. whole body imaging; heart transplant)
Any war machine program (e.g. ICBM)
Any communications technology program (e.g. cellular technology)
Air travel
Internal Combustion engine
Steam engine
Printing press

But if you wanted to find true peer for the hot fusion research program, you might look more appropriately to the following:

Quest for the fountain of youth
Quest for the elixir of life
Quest for the Holy Grail
Quest for the Philosopher’s Stone

If you were to ask a fusion research advocate about this, his response will be (if he deigned to respond): This guy (That would be me!) does not know whereof he speaks. What we are doing is more difficult than anything previously attempted by man.

The first part of the response, if you think about it, is completely irrelevant. So concentrate on the second part. You ask yourself: More difficult than placing a man on the moon? More difficult than separating Siamese twins joined at the head?

I mean, get a perspective. The right question to ask at this stage is this: Is this program workable at all, and if it is, do these people have what it takes to get it to work?

Any reasons they advance for continuing the program are also the reasons for discontinuing it. It is a matter of how you work the language. You may be familiar with this syndrome. Ever bought more shares in a company that is tanking, thinking to lower the average price of the shares that you hold? It is called sending good money after bad. You can cut your losses, or you can go down a slippery slope.

I am sorry to say that at this stage the situation may be this simple.

TAKING STOCK

The Fusion Energy Research Program today is a veritable generational career-building opportunity. In this respect, science has never seen anything comparable to this. I would not be surprised if you find a person there today whose father and grandfather were also fusion researchers. Now, when a scientific program with a specified single objective spans over generations without achieving its goal, you can either keep slogging away, or you can pause and take stock. If you pause and take stock, which of the above three facets of fusion research would you most examine? Let us enumerate them again:

(1) Basic science
(2) Ongoing scientific studies
(3) Engineering

As I said before, the scientists employed by the fusion research program are the cream of the crop, and their facilities are the most modern. Therefore, (2) cannot be faulted. Furthermore, the engineers employed are also the best available, and they have the cutting-edge technology available to them. Given the right prescription, they can do what is doable. So (3) is not at fault. Certainly it is impossible for (2) and (3) to have been going down the wrong path for 50 years.

We now turn to a Sherlock Holmes principle: When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

So the truth lies with (1): The basic science is at fault.

In the case of the Manhattan Project, the basic science was not in question. The same is true for the NASA Space Exploration programs, the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Missile Defense Program, the Human Genome Project, the Fuel Cell technology, the various medical imaging schemes, the various cancer cure programs, etc. All these projects involve R&D and D&D – no matter how difficult or how time-consuming.

In the case of the Fusion Energy program, I say that things have come to this impasse because the basic science is in question. It relates to the complete absence of any sense of the physical nature of magnetic field.

BASIC SCIENCE ISSUES

In the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, James Clerk Maxwell and his contemporaries gave us a technical description and a working definition of magnetic field. But nobody until this day has asked: What is magnetic field? What is its physical nature?

Such questions today are answered with evasion: Magnetic field owes itself to a source (usually a current), and is produced by a mystery process called action-at-a-distance.

Now think about this a moment: You are wanting magnetic field to be the sole and invisible barrier that contains the ultimate energy source. And you do not have a clue as to what magnetic field actually is, and you do not ask to know!

So here are my issues with the basic science underlying the fusion research program. First, the main underlying consideration is that I have shown that the nature of magnetic field may not have been correctly understood in physics to date. Second, the specific issues are one or more of the following:

(1). Magnetic field is a matterless mass that is subject to gravity. Therefore, a strong magnetic field may be distorted by gravity, upsetting the conditions for confinement. Click here.

(2). Magnetic field may pass to source-free configurations through instabilities – and thus be lost to the reactor vessel. Click here.

(3). I have shown that an externally applied magnetic field may decay through local processes in a plasma. It is like nitric acid eating through a lead confining vessel. So, the confinement may be violated not only through "instabilities", but also through processes at the ionic level (Actually, I have shown this for a dielectric plasma; Journal Of Physics A: Mathematical and General, vol. 27, pp. L431-L433, 1994. When I tried to publish the ionized-plasma version it, the Plasma Physics Establishment prevented publication. To see this manuscript, please click here.).

My underlying point here is this: The more extreme the confinement situation is, the more the plasma and the magnetic field become as one: A symbiotic fluid. And this fluid is not conducive to confinement: The distinction between the confiner and the confinee has dissolved.

HUBRIS

Some 25 years ago, a person who perhaps has the greatest authority to make such an observation, wrote:

From the theory, it was concluded that in the laboratory, plasmas could easily be confined in magnetic field and heated to such temperatures as to make thermonuclear release of energy possible. When attempts were made to construct thermonuclear reactors, a confrontation between the theories and reality was unavoidable. The result was catastrophic. Although the theories were generally accepted, the plasma itself refused to believe in them. Instead, the plasma showed a large number of important effects which were not included in the theory. It was slowly realized that one had to develop new theories, but this time in close contact with experiments.

This statement remains equally true today. Who was this person? My teacher Hannes Alfven.

Indeed, if there is one thing the fusion researchers should have learned from their own studies by now, it is this: The infinitude of possibilities cannot be controlled, and a fusion plasma will always find a way of escaping confinement.

But, instead of anxiously opening their minds and their eyes on these issues, this community has actively suppressed and rejected my work - with help from their Government backers.

Persistence is a good thing, but it cannot replace flawed science. If the science is flawed, they can be running this program until the ends of time, without reaching anywhere.

How did the Fusion Energy Program develop? At some point in the past, the theoretical physicists decided that fusion energy was achievable. That being the case, applied physicists, experimentalists, engineers and bureaucrats took over, and the project gained a life of its own. What I am showing now is that the original decision may not have had the benefit of all of the necessary physics, because this physics had not yet been formulated. But it appears that no one is interested in revisiting that issue. Thus, it is possible that this entire edifice - no matter how deeply entrenched and how extensively ramified it is today - will have to catastrophically unravel someday in the manner of the Former Soviet Union or Enron.

Faced with the documented scientific issues, what does the Government sponsors of the Fusion Research Community say about this? They say:

(1). One of my papers at issue was not published in a journal they consider "appropriate". (This is a well-known syndrome - It is called judging a book by its cover.)

(2). My ideas are speculation, not worthy of discussion or publication. (Also a well-known syndrome - "You are not worthy.")

If you are out on a walk in your neighborhood, and someone tells you that your house is on fire, you do not stand there and ponder the credibility and the character of this person. You run back to your house and check.

So, basically, the fusion researchers not only did not deign to look at my scientific issues, but told me in no uncertain terms to take a hike. Such is the height of their hubris. Hubris in successful people is one thing, hubris in ineffectual people is another. The former is tolerable, the latter is laughable.

TODAY'S PLASMA THEORIST: THE EQUATION JOCK

The greatest fallacy with regard to today's fusion research is this: They will point to voluminous scientific publications with horrendous math that are presumablty their fantastic achievement. In truth, today's plasma theorists are equation jocks. They have no physics in their gut. And that is the root of all the problems with hot plasma fusion research. I say this based on my personal experiences in trying to publish ideas in plasma physics.

But before they tell you that I am cuckoo, let me tell you one more thing: One of the most famous plasma theorists once tried to pass off a published idea of mine as his own! I guess he must have figured that no one will have noticed an obscure researcher. The journal PHYSICS TODAY then aided and abetted by giving this fantastic new idea full page coverage. The fusion energy problam was now about to be solved - thanks to this genius! When I sent this professor a reprint of my paper quietly, this whole business disappeared - without any retraction from any quarters. Also, suddenly the idea was of no consequence anymore.

So do not let anyone tell you that I am dismissible. What I am is in evidence: I am their scientific superior.

And what do I mean by having physics in the gut? Perhaps the best way to answer is to quote from my teacher - the foremost plasma physicist:

"Instead of treating hydromagnetic equations I prefer to sit and ride each electron and ion and try to imagine what the world is like from its point of view and what forces push them to the left or to the right."

This unpublished manuscript by me is an example of such physics. It was returned by multiple journals with evasive referee comments.

GET ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

The history of stock market is replete with examples of big promise: Scientific research companies that "IPOed" with great fanfare and hype, with people falling over one another to buy shares. Let us take an example that is comparable in importance to fusion energy research, that would make the world substantially a better and a safer place. A company named Somatogen (NASDAQ: SMTG) appeared on the scene, promising an unlimited supply of fully artificial blood. You could carry drums of it to the battle field and disaster sites! Typing was not needed! Facilities were established, research was proceeding apace. You bought shares at $25, and waited for it to shoot up to $100 anyday. That was some 15 years ago. What happened to that company today? Take a guess, and try SMTG.PK. There is such a symbol, but it is not even clear who is responsible for that symbol today. If this were a project under Uncle Sam, it could be thriving today - and may be for the next 50 years.

Think of the entire Fusion Energy Research endeavor as a publicly traded Wall Street company started 50 years ago with venture capital, even long-range venture capital. For 50 years, every year, it has assured shareholders that progress is being made, and great fortunes are ahead. Where would such a company be today? It would probably be recognized as a worthless investment or worse yet, a sham and a scam, and would go out of business (or be bailed by Uncle Sam, and be exactly where it is today). There would surely be many counter arguments to this scenario (sanctity of basic research, quest for knowledge etc). But whenever lofty and sanctimonious arguments are advance to counteract an issue of accountability for tax dollars spent, with promise of deliverable technologies, you should be wary. Ask yourself what they promised you in return for your invested dollars:

- Knowledge that warms the cockles of their heart;
OR
- BTUs that heat your home?

Why is .PK (remember SMTG.PK?) not a reasonable way to think about this enterprise?

And when they take issue with these criticisms, ask them first to disprove the scientific basis of my thesis in the open literature. That is the proper venue for any response. But, for obvious reasons, they will not respond. They will pretend to be above it all.

In view of the Government-backed adamancy of the fusion researchers, let me simply record here my own view of what will happen in the end:

In my thinking, trying to contain a fusion plasma in a magnetic field is like trying to store nitric acid in a lead jar. A physicist of future might look back and find the "hot" fusion research program as humorous as the cold fusion research program has been perceived to be by the physics establishment today - although for different reasons.


The future of ITER (Hot plasma fusion energy research program) - if and when it will be up and running - is completely foreseeable.

There is no doubt however that when the fusion program dies, they will find all kinds of face-saving justifications that exonerate them of all blame.

ITER:
THE MOTHER OF ALL SCIENTIFIC BOONDOGGLES

Here is the key language used to rationalize the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) program:

The basic physics elements of the ITER plasma performance have been successfully tested in present day experiments. However, an integrated simulation of a fully ITER-like plasma is not possible in present tokamaks. The choice of plasma parameters to satisfy the above goals and conditions therefore depends on a consideration of the operating space available given the uncertainties of extrapolating from today's knowledge.

In summary these predictions show that a device whose fusion power output is ~500 MW is the minimum size device that can achieve the energy multiplication requirements with reasonable margins. Such a device can satisfy the technical objectives and has the necessary flexibility to accommodate contingencies.

ITER in Latin means The Way!

So, after decades of research, they found that they needed a "minimum size" reactor to demonstrate the feasibility of sustained fusion at a meaningful level. Good enough! But then, when it turns out that the reactor they proposed would not be funded, they scaled back to a lesser reactor - they just pencil-whipped the proposal into shape. Imagine building a nuclear bomb with less than critical mass because there's not enough material available. I will translate the above language of the aforementioned rationale for you into plain English:

Generations of us have been raised during the better part of the last century, thanks to the untold billions (?) of taxpayer dollars. We have passed the torch from father to son to grandson. We have finally seen the distilled truth. All our scientific research to date consistently leads us to one single, unified, international strategy: Expand to survive, but stay affordable.

It seems that they have learned the lessons of Waxahatchie.

On a much smaller scale, I have seen exactly this type of approach many times with bad R&D programs within industry organizations. Programs are perpetuated, even enlarged – based not on demonstrated promise – but through a combination of salesmanship; PR and lobbying; developing powerful mentors; expanding scope and manpower to where the thing is difficult to shut off; intense peripheral activity - meetings, travel etc; wordsmithing and pencil-whipping; etc. Those who know what is going on remain silent (apart from private criticisms) for fear of repercussions. At some point, some new management catches on and shuts the thing down. Then the blame attaches to this management. You see, they did not let the project go to its successful endpoint. The principals of such ventures always have an escape route – like the James Bond villains. Moreover, since the initially proposed ITER program had to be scaled back because of monetary considerations, there is a perfect built-in scapegoat when (not if) this program fails: We did not get the size we asked for!

The same things you also see in the Stock Market – with many technology and biotech venture companies. Real life people have lost their real life shirts on this type of activity. The difference: With such companies you yourself burn your tax-paid dollars. With the Hot Fusion Research, Uncle Sam burns your tax dollars.

Suppose the entire ITER program were made into a venture capital company, and all the scientists were asked to buy substantial quantities of share in it! Suppose that portions of their salaries and all of their retirement fund were in shares!

COLD FUSION VS. HOT FUSION

It is instructive to examine hot fusion and cold fusion in parallel.

In cold fusion, a conventional electrochemical reaction in a liquid at room temperature is initiated in a tabletop experiment. The particular combination of the liquid and the electrode material generates heat well in excess of what is expected from the electrochemical reaction alone. The theory is advanced by the proponents that in the interstices of the electrode, atoms are heated to high enough temperatures and are confined to small enough regions to undergo nuclear fusion reaction. Hence the excess heat. The opponents say, however, that: (1) Theoretical calculation of the energetics does not support nuclear fusion, and (2) There is no convincing experimental evidence of nuclear fusion reaction.

In hot fusion, a magnetically confined plasma is heated to high enough temperatures that the nuclei achieve such velocities as to collide with each other at energies suitable for nuclear fusion. There is evidence that this actually happens, but there are also issues relating to adding extra components (“accelerants”) to the plasma to demonstrate the fusion. At any rate, this demonstration is short-lived, and sustained fusion is yet to be demonstrated. The proponents say that it is only a matter of building bigger machines. However: (1) Nobody knows that magnetic field can provide sustained confinement of a fusion plasma. This is a Hail Mary issue – and the proponents know it. (2) Nobody knows if sustained fusion can be produced without said accelerants or other artifices they might think up.

So you can see that there are equally serious scientific issues with both approaches. To laugh at cold fusion and to be wowed by hot fusion are what the Physics Establishment would want you to do. But think for yourself.

One difference between the two approaches is that the former is a small program being pursued today by a ragtag band of diehards. They are still working under a cloud, having been placed there by the Physics Establishment. Hot fusion is a gigantic worldwide, institutionalized effort, guzzling dollars and euros and yens alike with remarkable efficiency. If their fusion machine remains questionable, their money guzzling machine and the publicity machine would be the envy of the biggest political campaign.

The demise of the hot fusion research program - after they have strung it out as long as they can (which may be another 50 years) - will be orchestrated in a way as to absolve all concerned of all responsibility and blame. A prdictable and culpable failure would be turned into a wonderful positive development. The demise will be due to the reasons I have outlined. However, these very reasons will then be presented in a new package, and as new insight they have gleaned from a 100 years of accumulated experience. This "new" insight will then be touted as a great discovery - whence new money-guzzling programs will sprout.

A prominent scientist within the fusion research establishment reportedly said once (self-deprecatingly, I suppose): If you took all the money that has been spent on fusion energy research in the form of one-dollar bills, and just burned them in a controlled manner, we would have significant amounts of utility energy.

And then we would be left with ashes.

SOME NAMES TO HOLD ACCOUNTABLE:

Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee

Richard D. Hazeltine (Chair)—University of Texas at Austin
Charles C. Baker—University of California, San Diego
Vincent S. Chan—General Atomics
Jill P. Dahlburg—Naval Research Laboratory
Jeffrey P. Freidberg—Massachusetts Institute of Technology
John D. Lindl—Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Kathryn McCarthy—Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory
William McCurdy—Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
George J. Morales—University of California, Los AngelesGerald
A. Navratil—Columbia University
Cynthia K. Phillips—Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Marshall N. Rosenbluth—General Atomics
John Sheffield—Oak Ridge National LaboratoryCommittee
Joseph A. Johnson, III—Florida A&M University
Allen Boozer (Division of Plasma Physics, American Physical Society)—Columbia University
Kathryn McCarthy (American Nuclear Society)—Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory
Ned R. Sauthoff (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)—Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Designated Federal Officer:

N. Anne Davies (Associate Director, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences)—U.S. Department of Energy

Others:

James W. Van Dam (FESAC Secretary)—University of Texas at Austin

Richard D. Hazeltine
The High Priest of Happy Talk

Richard D. Hazeltine, an academic leader of the Fusion Energy Program

    

Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith FRS
He exudes absolute confidence!

In June 2005 the groundbreaking of ITER took place in France. The British fusion research leader Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith FRS assured BBC News that he is absolutely confident that ITER will work (because his own machine works). This is a good sound bite for the public, but it does not mean anything. It says that Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith FRS is confident that there will be evidence of fusion in ITER. Nobody disputes that. If Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith FRS had said something like: By 2020, a small city will be powered by fusion, now that would require confidence! The real question is: What does ITER working mean for fusion utility energy? It may mean absolutely nothing. Another 15 or 25 years of fun and games for the scientists (and of course, assured jobs), and that may be about the size of it. By that time they will think of something new to string this thing out. Add another 25 years, and presto, you have a centenary on your hands! Before you know it, the Elois will be celebrating 100 years of the Birth of Fusion Energy Research in great outdoor arenas around the world, by broad daylight. For, before sundown they must hurry home. There is no nighttime activity in the world then, because of the scarcity of energy. At night, the Morlocks come out in force.

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