I recently watched Al Gore, the man who "used to be the next president of the United States" give his documentary. It’s good, it’s informative and it’s scary as, well, the Earth flooding due to excessive ice melt. I’m not sure what good it will do though without governments support, and even if they do, what good it will do without the United States taking a lead. That’s why I hope this documentary and the promotional material and tours that are going with it are a prelude to a 2008 presedential bid.
Al Gore isn’t what I really wanted to talk about though.
Today ITER received final sign off. The biggest international science investment since the ISS, ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is a colaboration of Europe, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Russia and the US and is possibly the only sustainable way of providing energy needs once we inevitably burn up our remaining hydrocarbon supplies.
It is however an inconvenient truth that sustaining a nuclear fusion reaction which produces more energy than is required to keep it going has been and still is a long, long way off. It has been estimated that we are 100 years away from an economic, mass producable fusion reactor capable of completely supporting the energy requirements of this planet.
Building on previous successful projects like the Joint European Torus, the ITER project is designed to replicate the entire lifetime of a commercial fusion reactor plant from construction starting next year through to 2016 when the first plasma is expected to be generted upto 2026 when small scale electricity generation is expected and then a decomissioning phase.
It is definately a long haul project, but the huge benefits of clean, virtually unlimited fuel are worth the time and money being spent on what will effectively be the most expensive, technologically advanced kettle in the world!