Fusion Power: Is It Still “30 Years Away”?

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 24 2011 11:55 AM

Fusion Power: Is It Still “30 Years Away”?

80645227
Photo by TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Will fusion ever make it from the lab to the real world? In the Guardian, professor Steve Cowley, director of the U.K.’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, argues that it’s not only feasible—it’s necessary. Fusion, according to Cowley, could solve our energy crisis and help mitigate climate change.

The Guardian’s Leo Hickman writes,

Advertisement

Fusion energy—in essence, recreating and harnessing here on earth the process that powers the sun—has been the goal of physicists around the world for more than half a century. And yet it is perpetually described as "30 years away". No matter how much research is done and money is spent attempting to commercialise this "saviour" technology, it always appears to be stuck at least a generation away.

Cowley hopes to see real progress in fusion within the next decade, anticipating that the “break-even point”— “the moment of parity when the amount of energy they extract from a tokamak equals the amount of energy they put into it”—will occur within the next five years. (A tokamak is a device that uses magnetic fields to confine and heat plasma for controlled fusion.) International governments are betting on fusion as well, with the European Union, the United States, China, India, Russia, and South Korea investing $20 billion to build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. The ITER is scheduled for completion in 2019 but is already facing “rocketing” costs.

Read more on the Guardian.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.