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2010-04-24

why focus fusion will be the killer in energy business

source: Focus Fusion Society's site Q&A

Since Edison’s time there has been one main way to produce electricity. A heat source boils water to produce high temperature steam. The steam is fed under pressure to a turbine. The spinning of the turbine feeds power to a spinning electric generator producing electric power. Whether the source of heat is coal, oil, gas, or nuclear fission the basic process is the same. The majority of the cost of a modern power station comes from the turbine, electric generator, and the associated plumbing to handle the steam and water. So replacing the heat source cannot produce cheap electricity.

A focus fusion reactor would produce electricity very differently. The energy from fusion reactions is released mainly in the form of a high energy pulsed beam of helium nuclei. Since the nuclei are electrically charged, this beam is already an electric current. All that is needed is to capture this electric energy into an electric circuit. This can be done by allowing the pulsed beam to generate electric currents in a series of coils as it passes through them. This is much the same way that a transformer works, stepping electric power down from the high voltage of a transmission line to the low voltage used in homes and factories. It is also like a particle accelerator run in reverse. Such an electrical transformation can be highly efficient, probably around 80-90%. What is most important is that it is exceedingly cheap and compact. The whole apparatus of steam turbine and electrical generator are eliminated. A 20MW focus fusion reactor may cost around $500,000 and produce electricity for 1/20th of a cent per kWh. This is a hundred times less than current electric costs. Fuel costs will be negligible because a 20MW plant will require only twenty pounds of fuel a year.

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