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Budget Cuts Force U.S. out of the Nuclear Fusion Race

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Posted on Thu, 28 June 2012 21:59 | 4

Nuclear fission is the process by which atoms are split apart to release energy, the process which powers modern nuclear reactors. But fission also has a more powerful, more efficient, cleaner cousin; nuclear fusion. In nuclear fusion atoms are fused together to release even greater amounts of energy.

After the nuclear fission bombs of the Second World War scientists started to experiment with much more powerful fusion bombs. However it wasn’t until 1951 that fusion was considered for peaceful endeavours. A Princeton University scientist by the name of Lyman Spitzer Jr. founded a laboratory where he designed a new machine which could harness the vast energy levels released in fusion reactions. Sptizer called his invention the stellerator, and dreamed that it could one day power tens of thousands of homes.

For the full report please visit the Washington Post


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  • Bill on June 29 2012 said:
    One thing to keep in mind is that the Princeton facility is not the only one in the country to study fusion. The stellerator concept competes with tokomaks of which there are many operating in the US (MIT, GA-San Diego and one at Princeton as well). The US is also participating in the ITER tokomak project in France. But most importantly the National Ignition Facility (NIF)at Livermore which is studying inertial confinement fusion enjoys extensive funding (by virtue of its nuclear weapons maintenance application). By many reports the NIF is much closer to demonstrating self-sustaining fusion in the near term than tokomak or stellerator technology. So yes, maybe funding is reduced for Princeton's stellerator, but US fusion research is arguably well-supported through the ITER and NIF programs. In my opinion the title of your article is quite misleading and does not accurately reflect the support for fusion research in the US.
  • Bob white on June 30 2012 said:
    Let's face it, the US is well on its way to be on par with Bangladesh in 25 years.

    Better get your kids registered in Mandarin courses...
  • SteveK9 on July 01 2012 said:
    It's no loss. I was very excited about fusion when I first read about it ... in 1968. It was 20 years away ... it is always 20 years away. A friend of mine got out of Plasma Physics in 1982, because he said it was going nowhere ... he got that right.

    Fission can do everything we need. It is also unlimited, cheap and safe.
  • Mangle on July 07 2012 said:
    Y'all should read this:

    http://www.mydigitalpublication.com//display_article.php?id=1104768

    It's from the Journal of Petroleum Technology.

    "In the late 1850s, the whaling industry was in a veritable boom in the town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Business was great, and many in the whaling industry believed that increased demand would continue for decades to come. But in 1859, oil was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania with a well drilled by Edwin Drake. The rest is history.

    That was 150 years ago. A small but increasing number of people around the world believe we are on a similar course, except this time it is the petroleum industry that might be threatened. As with any emerging technology, critical challenges must be overcome and a significant effort lies ahead to convince a world of skeptics that a new source of energy has been discovered and will be important.

    The potential new source of energy is low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). With any discussion of a new technology, caution is advised. The world of LENR is filled with mystery, contradiction, gross speculation, misinformation, slippery timelines, and skepticism that sometimes spill over into outright denial. Healthy skepticism on LENR (or any new technology) is a good thing, but so is an open mind. If LENR is for real—and many well-qualified physicists believe it is—it will not only change the petroleum industry, but also significantly affect almost every aspect of our world. Some call it ,the new fire.'"