The pursuit of nuclear energy through controlled thermonuclear fusion could easily qualify as one of the grandest scientific and technical ventures in history. As with all such gargantuan endeavors, the challenge is Herculean and has been subject to ebbs and flows in confidence.
The era of this persistent oscillation between hope and despair may just have ended, however; cautious optimism prevails after a succession of events including major new advances in the science and technology of fusion and a fundamental societal restructuring of research and development. We’ve matriculated from talking just about fusion “research” to real and fertile discussions on commercially-viable fusion (CVF.)
Why are we optimistic?
First of all, hats off to the enormous sponsorship of fusion by governments around the world. Here, fundamentally understanding both the science and technology was paramount, with commercialization being secondary. That is the nature of discovery. The recent success at NIF in achieving “break-even” is more than symbolic. It is the beginning of a new era built on a foundation of science sponsored by Government. The bend in the road has come.
Second, the recent animation of the private sector in Fusion, with over $5 billion being raised is exciting and important. The public-private partnerships that have ensued add buoyancy to the goal of CVF.
Third, new technologies, like the high temperature superconductors used by CFS and new physics ideas pioneered by the physics community will be crucial in fulfilling this promise.
Fourth, the possibility of large-scale simulations of new physics regimes with advanced software is a boon to the cause.
These are exciting times for fusion- for the first time we have a coalescence of all vital elements to make fusion power a reality. The time for bullishness has come!