Coming Soon (?)  Totally Green Fusion Power!

Big announcements this week from the US Energy Department, a major breakthrough in research on nuclear fusion at a federal research facility.  The Energy Secretary said, “This is what it looks like for America to lead, and we’re just getting started.”  [The taxpayer funded breakthrough] “will go down in the history books.”

After thirteen years of research, the lab was able to use super lasers to project into a capsule of hydrogen isotopes and cause a fusion reaction for less than a second.  The fusion reaction produced more energy than the lasers provided.  Whoopee!  Green power that doesn’t emit hydrocarbons.

Nuclear fusion is the energy-releasing process that occurs about 93 million miles away in the sun and in hydrogen bombs.

There are a few problems that may slow the practical application of these scientific advances.  It took a lot of energy to run the many super lasers for that fraction of a second.  Hundreds of times as much energy than was produced by the super lasers to trigger the fusion process.

To put it in perspective, I took a recent electricity bill for my home.  In that month, we used about 50 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day for the heat pump, appliances, lighting and other household devices.  That cost about $6.00 per day.

If only we could buy the Hindenburg D2023 Magic Power Box to produce this green energy.  We could connect it to our power meter and feed that same 50 kWh per day for our household needs.  But we would need (at least) a 5,000 kWh per day power source to run the Hindenburg D2023 box.  If power rates stayed the same, that would cost us at least $600 per day and would stretch our budget a bit too far.

There are some other problems.  Could the energy grid produce and deliver those 5,000-plus kWh to us each day?  And the Hindenburg D2023 Magic Power Box doesn’t exist.  It will take years and billions of research dollars to develop, manufacture and implement the Magic Power Box.

We might want to consider the potential safety risks of having ongoing large-scale nuclear fusion devices operating around the world and the potential consequences from accidents, system malfunction, wars, natural disasters and terrorist attack.

Of course, it will also require energy to manufacture and maintain the Magic Power Box and to produce and deliver the hydrogen isotopes (deuterium and tritium) that are required for the fusion process that releases energy.

On the bright side, this fusion process will exhaust helium, so you would be able to fill your own party balloons at home.  Imagine the fun you could have inhaling helium and making your voice sound weird (warning: inhaling helium can be deadly).

You may want to hold off on your order for the Hindenburg D2023 Magic Power Box.  In the meantime, we might want to meet our energy needs through existing more-efficient means (hydroelectric, hydrocarbons and nuclear power sources, for example).

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