By Mark Halper
Posting in Energy
There is no typo in that headline. Could fusion energy bring world harmony?
A team of U.S. and Iranian physicists has launched a project to perfect nuclear fusion as a way to diffuse tensions between the two countries, rid the world of weapons-linked uranium programs, and cut the planet's reliance on geopolitically charged fossil fuels.
The Fusion for Peace initiative seeks to establish fusion development centers in the U.S. and Iran that would accelerate informal collaborations already under way between scientists from both countries.
The group believes that with the right backing, fusion could provide grid electricity in as soon as five years. It is seeking signatures on a petition calling for the U.S. and Iran to support its plan.
"We hereby call on the governments of the U.S. and Iran to step back from military action and instead start a 'Fusion for Peace' initiative," the petition states. "This 'Fusion for Peace' scientific and engineering collaboration could, if successful, make uranium enrichment obsolete, block proliferation everywhere, liberate the world from oil, and open up a new source of cheap, clean, unlimited energy."
The U.S. and Iranian scientists are developing a type of fusion known as "aneutronic" (without neutrons), which would provide electricity directly from charged particles rather than by heating water to create steam and drive a turbine, as fission and other forms of fusion under development do.
It is led by Eric Lerner, chief scientist of Lawrenceville, N.J.- based Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP); Hamid Yousefi, of the University of Tehran; and Morteza Habibi of Amirkabir University in Tehran. The LPP website says that the scientists "have already been collaborating informally, exchanging ideas and data, but are calling for a joint project to greatly accelerate this research." The U.S. and Iran are the two countries most advanced in aneutronic fusion, it notes.
LPP recently hit a major milestone in its development of aneutronic fusion, as SmartPlanet reported yesterday.
Nuclear fusion is considered by many people to be the Holy Grail of energy sources because it potentially provides cheap, CO2-free power that would not create dangerous nuclear waste and weapons materials the way today's uranium-based fission reactors do. Most of the world's nuclear reactors run on enriched uranium. Tensions between the West and Iran have been mounting over allegations that Iran is enriching uranium in order to support a weapons program.
Fusion melds atoms together rather than splitting them apart as fission does. LPP's aneutronic approach would use common hydrogen and boron. Part of its vision is to build small fusion devices that could provide power to neighborhoods and other locales.
The general idea of fusion power took hold over half a century ago, and gave rise to the phrase "too cheap too meter." But fusion has perennially remained some 30 years away, as researchers have been unable to deliver enough energy from their fusion machines to economically offset the energy that goes into the process.
LPP believes that its recent breakthrough, in which it achieved temperatures hot enough to support aneutronic fusion, marks a big step towards shortening the timeframe for bringing fusion to market. "With proper support, getting clean fusion energy to the grid could be accelerated to within as few as five years instead of decades," the Fusion for Peace petition states.
Fusion for Peace envisions two "Aneutronic Research Centers" - one in each country staffed by scientists from both the U.S. and Iran, and expanding to include countries not currently involved in aneutronic fusion.
"In light of these new scientific developments, and of the real threat of war between the U.S. and Iran, we are proposing the establishment of a joint US-Iran Aneutronic Fusion Program to accelerate this research and pool the resources of the various aneutronic fusion research programs," the petition states.
"If it succeeds, in a few years, all uranium enrichment for energy production would be obsolete and could be shut down - not just in Iran, but everywhere. This would be a giant step toward eliminating nuclear proliferation worldwide. And as aneutronic fusion supersedes fossil fuels, oil would be removed as the real fuel of the decades long tension and wars in the Middle East."
You have to like the boldness. Does it stand a chance?
Fusion for Peace artwork by Glenn Millam. Photos: Yousefi from University of Toyama (Japan) website; Lerner from LPP; Habibi from Armikabir University of Technology website.
More nuclear actions and reactions on SmartPlanet:
- Fusion breakthrough
- Nuclear’s back. Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is!
- China grabbing up uranium to secure nuclear lead
- Nuclear down, CO2 up in Japan, Germany
- Fukushima’s lesson: ‘Alternative’ nuclear, not ‘no’ nuclear
- Photo captures Westinghouse’s nuclear knowledge flying around China
- Watch replay of nuclear’s future, with dash of rare earth
- Why safe nuclear will rely on rare earth minerals
- Meet the future of nuclear power: 8 guys in China
- The new face of safe nuclear
Mar 28, 2012
Thanks for the great article which concerns the crux of the biggest hope...and fear, for this planet. It's time for mankind to stop the burning of fuels. It will soon look foolish not to. For another example of fusion for peace, google Keshe Foundation, founded by Iranian nuclear engineer MT Keshe. He has been working hard for similar cooperative goals. Keshe Foundation has stated they are willing to work with any country or organization, to develop MT Keshe's plasma generator technology. He says he has working generators that require no fuel, and is now offering the first batch for sale. This goes way beyond simple, cheap power generation for all, which will be the first energy revolution. Mr Keshe also claims to be able to generate gravitational-magnetic fields for levitation, control, and protection of a craft. The devices also have positive health benefits and other implications. All we have to do is allow cooperation to happen...which is not such an easy task in today's competitive world!
If the scientists are able to actually make a fusion generator and it actually generates more energy than needed to start fusion then it is possible to make a positive global change. A practical fusion reactor would help slow nuclear proliferation and also help get everyone off of using fossile fuels for energy and transportation. The downside would be that a functional fusion technology would do nothing to control the increase in human populations.
The war drums are beating faster and faster in the Great US of A. We all need to fight the ignorance in every way we can and as fast as we can. Iran is a great country with the richest historic, cultural and intellectual wealth. America and Iran need to work together on so many important fronts instead of playing these dangerous games of chicken.
...isn't their oil or nuclear ambitions. It's their borderline-crazy leadership, and the populace that follows along. That won't be fixed by fusion energy. As for the U.S.: I can't speak for our political and business leadership -- perhaps they have sinister ulterior motives -- but the populace is mostly well-meaning toward SW Asia. The U.S. populace supported nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan because we truly wanted to help people mired in medieval societies. But it turns out, they're not all trapped. A large portion (maybe even a majority) likes it that way, and a sizeable minority wants to go even further backwards. Such a mindset is so incomprehensible to us that it's taken us years to acknowledge the truth. We'll be leaving SW Asia soon. God help those people we leave behind, still as enslaved as when we arrived.
Profit motive abhors cures. You can't get recurring revenue from cures. I love the idea but power brokers will beat the war drum louder than ever to drown out any opposition to tension. Tension equals higher gas prices and war means billions in sales of mechanized death delivery. Any scientists collaborting with "the other team" will probably be charged with treason or espionage, beheaded in Iran and locked up for life in USA. I think the world might be running thin on hopium at this point. The LPP scientists need to get out of politics, get fusion done, and THEN the world will change.
The reality is that in international politics, it's about wanting to play with "the big boys" and to be taken seriously. That means having nuclear weapons. Even if we could give them functioning fusion technology tomorrow, their path would be little different than it is now.
First, win the Nobel and make billions off aneutronic fusion power plants. Then, use the bully pulpit. What LPP is doing now makes me wonder if there is anything substantial to aneutronic fusion.
I hope you noticed that I said that it is possible to make a positive global change and I also said that this could slow (not stop) nuclear proliferation. On one hand it is helpful that the scientists from both countries are working together for peace but on the other hand there are too many governmental elements on both sides that are actively working to be more belligerant against the other. The game of the big boys' club has been going on for a long time. This is something that works against reducing nuclear proliferation because the governments think that their country will get more respect if they join the nuclear club. Look at North Korea, having set off a couple of nukes did not change their stature; it only made them more difficult to deal with them.
Don't forget yesterday's news: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/fusion-breakthrough/14516?tag=mantle_skin;content But you don't need to wait for a Nobel Prize to raise your voice--After all, they give 'em out *for* increasing the peace, why just aim for 1 in Physics? ;-D
...as it ultimately answers practically all of our energy, pollution, and even poverty problems. I just don't think it will make any difference in terms of weapons proliferation. If anything, it might make it worse. Consider what becomes of the Middle East when they no longer get billions in easy petrol dollars anymore...