Sunday, April 15, 2012

 

MIT scientists explain when we'll have fusion power

The old joke is that no matter when you ask when we will have fusion power the answer is always in 50 years. There seems to be reason to believe that the clock on fusion power might start ticking down.

When will fusion power my house (or vehicle)?

This is obviously an impossible question to answer, but we can give some thoughts about when it might happen, and why. First, the current official plan is that ITER will demonstrate net fusion gain (Q = 10, that is, ten times more fusion power out than heating power put in) in about 2028 or 2029. (Construction will be done by about 2022 but there's a six-year shakedown process of steadily increasing the power and learning how to run the machine before the full-power fusion shots.)

At that point, designs can begin for a "DEMO", which is the fusion community's term for a demonstration power plant. That would come online around 2040 (and would putt watts on the grid, although probably at an economic loss at first), and would be followed by (profitable, economic) commercial plants around 2050.

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