Monday, November 27, 2006

Power to the fusion!

Under the category of "playing catchup from the long holiday weekend", this was a really cool development:

Nations representing half the world's population signed a long-awaited $12.8 billion pact last week for a nuclear fusion reactor that could revolutionize global energy use for future generations.

The ITER project will build a small-scale tokomak reactor, which uses a magnetic field to contain a plasma within which the fusion reaction occurs. It's the most promising of various proposed designs for a fusion reactor.

It's not something to hold your breath over. The reactor will take eight years to build, and even if it works a prototype power plant would not be built until about 2040.

But it's good to see countries putting serious money behind a project that could revolutionize energy production and even space exploration. This is thinking big. And while if it fails it will be called a boondoggle, if it succeeds it could mean seeing a working fusion plant in my lifetime -- something I frankly never expected.

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