Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fusion costs less than peanuts!

To continue yesterday's theme here's a thought.  "Fusion research costs peanuts".  I have often heard people ask why such a promising technology gets so little funding when it looks so promising.  Fusion costs peanuts.

Wrong!

Do you know how much money is spent on peanuts?  A little googling reveals that 30 million tonnes of peanuts are produced worldwide per annum.  Even at wholesale prices, (say $1200 per tonne at today's prices, mixing US and metric units entertainingly!) this amounts to much more than $30 billion per annum.

Compare that with the price of ITER.  At present estimates, the whole project will cost much less than $20 billion, spread over 20 years.

Fusion costs MUCH less than peanuts . . .  or ring-tones . . . or beer . . . or football . . . or church collections . . . or 2 weeks of Olympic sport . . . so where shall I stop?  Fusion might actually save the world.  The others only cost the world.

Food for thought.

(And just in case you think I am a fan of ITER, please don't.  It is the best hope we have, but the way it is planned it could be argued that it stands as a monument to global political nonsense.)

2 comments:

The InDoctor said...

What are your thoughts on the spherical tokamak design? Perhaps CTF as more realistic hope for the future?

Plasma Engineer said...

In a few words - harmless, interesting, worth persuing! And why not plan to install one in the JET torus hall after JET is finally decommissioned.

(Answer - European politics overrides common sense?)

Now if you wanted a longer answer I might ask questions about the central column design and how you might make it more robust to neutron damage. I might challenge you to explain why the spherical tokamak community is so unambitious. A few tens of millions to upgrade MAST is just 'chicken feed' and yet it is regarded as a great success. The UK government casually spends a few tens of billions on the things that it considers important (like bailing out banks that it failed to regulate or buying an upgrade for Trident which it could never really use) and yet seems to think that a trivial amount of money is appropriate to address the future energy needs of the country. Better stop now before I say something outrageous.