The Technical Challenge

If you have read this far, you know that a large part of the supporting technology necessary is already available. The critical element for implementation of the Fusion-Hydrogen energy system is development and demonstration of the fusion power plant. The development of practical fusion reactors will require the cooperative effort of thousands of scientists and engineers. This can be carried out by a technology program dedicated to the single goal of designing, testing and building practical fusion reactors. If approached with proper dedication the goal can be reached in about 10 years, or less. There are three well-known examples that demonstrate this approach will be successful.


The Manhattan Project during World War II provides an example of a goal-directed development that achieved amazing success in a relatively short time. In 1939, it was known that neutrons could split uranium atoms. When split each atom produced more neutrons and large amounts of energy. The neutrons produced by the splitting of one uranium atom were thought to be able to split two or three more uranium atoms in a cascading effect. It was postulated this could lead to a nuclear chain reaction and provide a large energy release either as an explosion or, if modulated, for power generation. Based on meager knowledge the atom bomb was developed in three years (1942 - 1945) and a commercial power reactor in about 12 years. The Shipping Port Pennsylvania reactor started delivering power to customers in 1957.

In the beginning, the nuclear pioneers had virtually no knowledge of how to harness nuclear energy. The chemical properties of the uranium were not well known. The properties of neptunium and plutonium were utterly unknown. They had only untested concepts of how to separate uranium 235 from uranium 238. They evaluated several separation techniques in parallel and selected the one that worked best. None of today's common laboratory analytical equipment, such as mass spectrometers, gas chromatographs, ion chromatographs, scanning electron microscopes or nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers was available. They lacked today's sophisticated engineering computer models for analysis of structures, heat transfer and the like. Even if they had had the models there were no computers. They worked with pencil, paper, the slide rule and manual adding machines.

Over the past fifty years, a large amount of money has been spent in studying how to release fusion energy. The expenditure is difficult to estimate because it was spent in many different countries. It was one of the few programs where international cooperation operated relatively freely. One would guess that the worldwide expenditure was approximately $100 billion over the 50-year period. Today we will start the fusion development program with 50 years of research background. We have detailed data on the properties of all the materials that may be used in making the reactors. Today we have many excellent computer models and the fast computer needed to take full advantage of them. With these advantages, the development of fusion reactors should be a far easier task than the one accomplished by the nuclear pioneers.

The state of fusion reactor technology is in some ways analogous to the state of rocket and space technology in 1962. In 1962, modest rockets had been built and launched. The German V-2 had bombarded London. The Soviet Union, followed by the United States had orbited 50 kilograms satellites. The Apollo Program's mission to the moon would require 140,000 kilograms in earth orbit. This required a scale up of a factor of 2800. The large launch hardware with adequate reliability for a manned moon rocket had not been designed, let alone built or tested. Rocket motors with high thrust and great reliability were needed for the huge manned Saturn VI. The methods to achieve a lunar landing and return existed only in concept. Despite the lack of suitable equipment for a moon mission, the methods and techniques for success were clear and there were no basic scientific barriers to achieving the goal. The engineering challenges were formidable. This group of scientists and engineers still used slide rules but the adding machine had been replaced with early types of computers. Their computers had a capability similar to the first personal computers introduced in the nineteen eighties. With a lot of hard work and thoughtful engineering, in 1969 men were safely placed on the moon and returned. The engineering development effort required seven years.

It should be noted that NASA used the same parallel development technique that was used to find a method to separate uranium isotopes. Rocket engines using liquid oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel had been tested and used in systems producing 25 thousand kilograms thrust. For Apollo Saturn 5 first stage about 3.4 million kilograms of thrust were needed. The scaling factor was 136, an unprecedented level of scaling. Engineers prefer to scale three to five times. To make the problem slightly easier the decision was made to use five separate engines. Now the scaling was only 27 times. These were called the F-l Engines. Each would have about 700 thousand kilograms of thrust.

During the period that the liquid fueled engines were being developed NASA (with Air Force help) was also developing, in parallel, very large solid rocket motors. These motors were to be the back-up first stage of Apollo if the F-l Engines did not work. Solid rocket motors had been successfully developed for the Minuteman ICBM system. They developed 230 thousand kilograms thrust. NASA's Apollo solid rocket motors were to develop 2.7 million kilograms thrust. This was still an unprecedented scaling of 11, but less than the scaling of the liquid engines.

In the summer of 1966, two things happened. The F-l Engines fired successfully and one of the very large solid motors cases failed during pressure testing. Apollo's first stage Saturn 5 used liquid oxygen-hydrocarbon fueled F-l engines. The managers were not sure which would work; they tried both and went with success. The same approach will be needed for the development of the fusion reactors and the floating platforms. Multiple concepts will be tested in parallel and the one that works will be used.

A recent example of how a single purpose program can be successful is provided by the human genome project. A government-funded effort to sequence the entire human genome was started. The government investigators under the direction of Dr. Francis Collins thought that it would take 15 years to complete. Dr. Craig Ventnor started a second group. Dr. Ventnor's group thought that that they could sequence the genome in 5 years. There was competition and the job was completed on a cooperative manner in about 3 years. It will be a big help if we can find a Craig Ventnor or a Francis Collins to run the fusion development program.

Reactors have shown deuterium and tritium will react. A reactor has operated with a positive energy yield for a few moments. No reactor has been able to supply continuous power. The large power producing reactors only exist in concept. 253, 254 Despite the lack of a functional energy producing reactor, the broad scientific principals are known and the development goal appears feasible. The fusion technologists have prepared conceptual drawings of future power plants and outlined the work that must be done to achieve a practical system. In much of the writing there is an explicit notion that if a truly large reactor was constructed it would be successful. The actual size is unclear, but with the potential for nearly unlimited size with the floating platform concept the size issue should be mitigated and success certain. The myriad tasks will require detailed solutions and each solution must be tested and verified. As with the space program, the goal can be achieved by the deliberate application of talent and hard work.

England, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United States all have the technological resources to implement the Fusion-Hydrogen energy system. The European Union certainly has the capability. Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Israel and South Africa may have sufficient capability. Japan's technological capability, financial strength, superb marine engineering capability and extraordinary need for fuels make it a leading candidate to develop the Fusion-Hydrogen system. The United States with its large economy, need for fuel, adequate marine engineering skills, nuclear technology and a proven capability to perform large-scale development projects has excellent prospects for completing

253 Agency for Advancement of Fusion Power, Inc., P. O. Box 8601 Northfield, Illinois, 60093, phone 312 446 5492

Fusion Power Associates, 2 Professional Drive, Suite 248, Gaithersburg, MD 20879, phone 301 258 0545

the task. Without doubt, a team made up of almost any combination of these nations can implement the system.

Today, the world has sufficient scientists and engineers to staff the effort. Many nations have government-sponsored laboratories, and universities staffed with superbly trained creative scientists and engineers. The industrial laboratories are every bit as good as the national laboratories and universities. There is abundant technological talent that can be applied to the development of the Fusion-Hydrogen energy systems. A few may not be ecstatic to join a hard driving program but most will be delighted to be involved.

Over the last 30 years, the United States has shown mediocre performance in taking the scientific advances from the research laboratory to production. 255 The Pacific Rim nations and the European nations have shown greater ability to turn scientific advances into useful products. A team of nations, possibly organized by the United Nations, could have a good chance of implementing the Fusion-Hydrogen energy system. A number of different groups could perform the development. However, this development project will present a management challenge on a par with the Apollo or Manhattan projects.

Since the author is most familiar with the United States, assume the United States takes the lead in development of the Fusion-Hydrogen system; the following scenario is likely to be followed. The Administration and Congress will agree on the plan to form an organization to perform the development task. Congress will formulate and pass the enabling legislation to form and fund the organization. This procedure will have much in common with the formation of the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As it is with NASA, the new organization will have a single clear goal. This goal will be: Establish the schedule and manage the development of the commercially viable fusion reactors, the necessary research complexes and permanent construction and production facilities. This schedule will include suggested target dates for the completion of the reactor and for the phased introduction of other technology items. After establishing the schedule, the agency will make its timetable clear and widely available. Based on this schedule, the supporting development tasks can be performed concurrently by private industry. The agency must have a highly competent public relations group for communication of its plans and schedules. This is necessary because the success of the effort will depend on the crystal clear statement of direction and wide scale dissemination of the needs and schedules.

The decision to implement this solution might be made in 2004, with the intent of having the first reactor on line in 2012. A site will be selected for the research and development center and two permanent reactor fabrication facilities, one on each coast. These facilities will be equipped with the heavy machinery and instrumentation necessary for the construction of high quality, low cost fusion reactors. Early planning and construction will include provisions for the rapid and orderly production of a series of reactors after the final design is fixed.

There are technological risk associated with the concurrent reactor research and development and the construction of the reactor fabrication facility. This risk is the potential for significant mid stream changes in the design of the reactor. An example can be found in the technology of superconductors.

It is likely any reactor design will require powerful magnetic fields to confine the reacting plasma or harness the energy from laser-induced micro-explosions. To achieve low operating costs, the magnets

255 Reich, Robert B., "The Quiet Path to Technological Preeminence", Scientific American, Vol. 261, No. 4, October 1989, Page 41

will likely use superconducting wires to generate the magnetic fields. Today the only superconductor technology applicable for the construction of suitable magnets is based on the niobium and vanadium metallic alloy coils. These alloys must be cooled to liquid helium temperatures, 4.2 Kelvin, for operation.

Ceramic superconductor materials are emerging as a possible replacement for the metallic superconductors. The ceramic superconductors have the potential to operate at the relatively high temperature of 90 to 125 Kelvin. This high temperature could allow the fusion reactor's superconducting magnetic coils to be cooled with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen takes less energy to produce and nitrogen is much cheaper than helium. As a result, liquid nitrogen coolant would be much less costly. However, at this time (2001), the ceramic superconductors are only beginning to appear as flexible wires, they may not carry adequate current, they are brittle, and unstable in contact with moisture. Despite problems, progress is being made.256, 257,258 However, a prudent decision maker will not plan to use ceramic superconductor magnets in a fusion reactor because of their unsuitable properties.

Recently Jun Akimitsu of Aoyama Gakuin University of Tokyo discovered that magnesium diboride has a superconducting transition temperature of 39 Kelvin. 259 This temperature is eighteen degrees higher than that of the next best metal super conductor. If magnesium diboride can be fabricated as wire, it will be very useful because liquid hydrogen at about 20 Kelvin could be used as the coolant. Hydrogen is much less costly than helium and cooling at 20 Kelvin requires less cooling energy. This material could become very valuable in the manufacture of fusion reactors. A number of investigators are probing its properties and results will be available soon.260, 261

Early work is under way with superconductors based on the remarkable molecule C6o- This molecule has the structure resembling the seams on a soccer ball. When doped with chloroform or bromoform it shows interesting High temperature superconducting properties. It is a long way from being incorporated into a wire suitable for magnets but the development should be watched.262

Establishment of a significant capability to fabricate niobium alloy based superconducting solenoids magnets will be a significant cost element in the reactor fabrication facility. Fortunately, much pioneering work on these magnets was performed in the research that supported the Superconducting Super Collider Project. That development work was continued in construction of the CERN Large Hadron Collider. This accelerator has 1236 superconducting magnets that control the particle beam.263 These magnets are not in a configuration that is suitable for application to the fusion reactors, but the techniques developed during their manufacture will be of great value.

In recent years, new permanent magnets have come on the market. They are made of an alloy of iron, neodymium and boron. They exhibit strong stable fields. They are strong enough that they have displaced superconductor magnets in some classes of medical magnetic resonance machines. Their use

256 162.3.html

257 http://


259 Service, Robert F„ "Material Sets New Record for Metal Compounds", Science, Vol. 291, No. 5508, February 23, 2001 Page 1476

260 Service, Robert F., "Physicists Scramble to Recapture the Magic", Science, Vol. 291, No. 5512, March 23, 2001. Page 2295

261 Collins, Graham P. "New Trick from Old Dog ", Scientific American, Vol. 284 No. 6, June 2001, Page 24B.

262 Schön, J. H., Kloc, Ch., BatLogg, B., "High-Temperature Superconductivity in Lattice-Expanded Cm", Science, Vol. 293, No. 5539, September 28, 2001, Page 2432

263 Science Scope, (budget acceleration) Science, Vol. 294, No. 5540, October 5, 2001, Page 29

in a fusion reactor would result in large cost and complexity savings if a reactor can be designed that would be effective with their level of field strength.

If a breakthrough occurs with the permanent magnets, ceramic conductor or magnesium diboride technology, some, of the initial investment in the niobium metallic magnet facility may be wasted. This type of risks must be accepted. If we wait until there is no technological uncertainty, the reactors will never be built.

A method of inducing fusion at room temperature with subatomic particles called muons has been demonstrated. 264 The production of muons requires a large particle accelerator. The energy used in the particle accelerator is millions of times greater than the energy released by muon fusion. Muon fusion appears to be a laboratory curiosity with little chance of providing an energy source.

Several years ago, there was much discussion of a cold fusion process involving electrolysis of deuterium containing water with palladium electrodes. 265 Independent investigators have had little luck duplicating the experiment and the original developers cannot reliably reproduce their results.

In 2002 neither muon fusion nor palladium enhanced room temperature fusion appear to have potential for the generation of sufficient energy to be useful for the base load energy system. Nevertheless, the fusion development agency must monitor these research activities to ensure that any new developments are exploited as rapidly as possible.

The agency coordinating the effort will fund and perform a limited set of functions as follows: prepare the project execution plan, develop the fusion reactors, and develop one or more facilities for the construction of the fusion plants. The project execution plan will include both a development plan and a schedule for completion. This agency will issue requests for proposals to perform the various tasks involved in the development of the reactors. It will evaluate the proposals, select the winners, award and administer the development contracts. The funding agency will limit itself to supporting research, developing, evaluating systems safety (including planning for the ultimate decommissioning of fusion reactors) 266 and implementing the production facilities for the fusion power reactors and the floating reactor sites.

Today's industrial practice often involves the partitioning of the design and manufacturing engineers into separate compartments. Elegant designs are produced by the research design engineers and passed as completed packages to the manufacturing engineers. Far too often, it is impossible to manufacture the elegant design. During the initial design effort, the manufacturing engineers were not consulted. As a result they have little insight into the critical details of the design and have difficulty knowing what changes can be made without compromising the ultimate function of the product.

The compartmentalizing of design engineering from manufacturing engineering can create enormous delays in taking hardware from conception to the market. The delays are caused by the cycling back through the system several times to obtain a design meeting the criteria that can be manufactured in a practical manner. The industrial and manufacturing engineers must be recruited early in the development process. In a project of this complexity the design, engineers and the manufacturing

264 Rafelski, Johann and Jones, Steven E., "Cold Nuclear Fusion", Scientific American, Vol. 257, No. 1, July 1987, Page 84

265 Pool, Robert, "Confirmation Heats up Cold Fusion Prospects", Science, Vol. 244, April 14,1989, Page 143

266 Inhaber, Herbert, "Energy Risk Assessment", Gorden & Breach Science Publications, 1 Park Avenue N. Y. 10016

engineers must work together from the start to perform concurrent design and manufacturing. This will result in the highest quality product in the shortest time and at the lowest cost.

By examining the development schedule, private sector business can determine the areas where they can compete and a time schedule for the introduction of new products. With the establishment of timetables and goals, the private sector can develop the supporting equipment. 267, 268' 269 The private sector industrial development tasks will include, at a minimum, the items shown in following list.

List of items that will likely be developed by private industry

Water purification equipment Electrolysis units

Deuterium separation and recovery devices Lithium recovery equipment Superconductor cables Flotation equipment Under water hydrogen storage bags Under sea pipe lines Hydrogen fueled pipeline pumps Improved hydrogen and oxygen liquefaction equipment Liquid hydrogen storage devices for: Regional storage (1 to 200 million Liters)

Local industrial storage (50,000 to 1 million Liters) Small business and home (2 to 50 thousand Liters) Over the road fuel carriers (2000 to 200000 Liters) Large vehicle use (100 to 2000 Liters)

Small vehicle use (50 to 100 Liters)

Aircraft use (100 to 200000 liters)

Liquid hydrogen handling and transfer equipment Hydrogen fueled vehicles using conventional engines Automobiles Trucks Buses Ships Airplanes Hydrogen - Air Fuel cells for: Industry Home

Mobile power systems

Emergency facilities




267 Berger, Suzanne, Dertouzos, Michael L., Lester, Richard K., Solow, Robert M. and Thurow, Lester C., "Toward a New Industrial America", Scientific American, Vol. 260, No. 6, June 1989, Page 39

268 Cyert, Richard M. and Mowery, David C., "Technology, Employment and U. S. Competitiveness", Scientific American, Vol. 260, No. 5, May 1989, Page 54

269 Leontief, Vassily, "The Choice of Technology", Scientific American, Vol. 252, No. 6, June 1985, Page 37


Fuel cell powered vehicles

Equipment for converting from fossil fuels to hydrogen Hydrogen driven metal reduction furnaces Safety devices Hydrogen detectors for Industry Homes Vehicles Aircraft Oxygen Detectors Ozone Detectors Oxygen handling devices Oxygen fired incinerators Ozone generators

Oxygen enhanced sewage treatment plants River and lake oxygenators

Fundamental scientific breakthroughs are not necessary for the development of any of this hardware. However, much high quality engineering and innovative development will be required to produce elegant, high reliability, low cost devices.

The implementation plan will cover all aspects of the effort. One item that must be dealt with early in the planning is the location and sequence for the installation of the reactors. The location for the first reactor will be selected to provide the maximum benefit. If the United States elects to build the reactors, a good candidate location for the first installation appears to be offshore near Los Angeles, California. Relatively deep cold water for reactor cooling is available near shore. Los Angeles has enormous problems with air pollution, potable water is in short supply, treatment and disposal of wastewater is creating problems, and places and methods for the disposal of solid waste are inadequate. A reasonable modern gas distribution system is in place. An energy shortage system is available. The population is motivated to take some action to reduce the problems and is capable of reacting favorably to technological change.

If Japan launches the first reactor, Tokyo offers the same challenges and advantages as Los Angeles, with the added advantage of a greater desire for an alternative energy source because of Japan's lack of fossil fuel reserves.

Selection of the first site is important. No matter how good the planning, or how deep the analysis, conversion will require learning. Lessons learned from each installation will make the next installation and conversion easier. To ease the conversion process the early sites should have a technologically oriented population with enthusiasm for the elimination of pollution.

When the first Fusion-Hydrogen production complex is under way, the construction of the second system will begin. Concurrent assembly line construction will continue for all reactor production. This technique will allow the maximum utilization of the construction facility and will, in turn, provide higher quality with the lowest possible construction cost. The floating reactor complexes will be towed to the desired location in much the same manner used with the large open ocean oilrigs. The receiving community or country, upon delivery of the reactor complex will install the equipment used to couple the hydrogen system to the local energy systems.

For each new site, surveys will be prepared that outline the detailed design configuration of a system optimized for its location. This will include the site layout, arrangements for the induction of cooling water, discharge of cooling water, the amount of fresh water to be produced by the various systems, layout and size of the underwater gas storage facilities, gaseous pipelines to the shore, and the division between the amount of oxygen to be vented or exploited.

If a natural gas pipeline system is available, detailed plans for the attachment of the hydrogen system to the existing gas pipeline system will be prepared. If pipeline systems are not available, planning for the installation of a hydrogen system will be made.

Plans and requirements will be prepared for the implementation of hydrogen liquefaction facilities. Their number and location, along with their associated storage and distribution centers, will be established. Where appropriate, this effort will include the initial implementation of filling stations for the refueling of hydrogen-fueled automobiles.

Oxygen utilization plans will be prepared. This will include applications to potable water treatment, waste water treatment, lake and river injection and the use for oxygen fired incineration. The oxygen use sites will be selected and the volumetric requirements for oxygen at each site will be estimated. The estimates will be used to establish the location of oxygen pipelines and distribution terminal points. New pipelines must be installed for the transport of oxygen.

Results of the planning and the schedules established must be widely and clearly disseminated to the public. This will allow the citizens to understand what is going to happen and when to expect it. It will also provide the developers of supporting hardware a reasonably accurate estimate of the time when their products must be ready for the market.

At the same time the first fusion reactor hydrogen production facility is being installed the second system will be nearing completion, the third will be well under way and the fourth will be started. As time passes, reactors will be continuously fabricated and placed in service. As each new reactor system comes on line, an appropriate fossil fuel using units can be retired. The production rate of the reactor construction facility will be designed to supply completed systems at a rate so all fossil fuel systems can be converted or replaced in 30 to 50 years.

This short description outlined how the technological barrier to the conversion will be handled. The main elements are the development and construction of the fusion reactors and the overall planning performed by a central agency. The development of the supporting hardware and the actual installation of the systems will be performed by the private business sector. The technological and managerial challenges are arduous, but can be handled with hard work and good communications.

The plan is based on the assumption that reactor design can be established in 5 to 6 years with the first production reactor scheduled for delivery in the 10th year. About 35 years after the start of the program sufficient reactors with hydrogen production facilities will be completed, and in place, to supply most of the planet's energy needs.

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