What Are the Issues with Current Fusion Technologies?
Hot fusion can be accomplished either with neutronic or aneutronic fusion. Of the thirty or so companies in the FIA 90% of them are using neutronic (radiation producing) fusion approaches. EFS believes that any neutronic approach is doomed to failure for a wide variety of reasons:
- They are not cost-effective even compared to traditional renewables.
- They require rare, expensive, nearly impossible to get fuels: Tritium, Helium3.
- They are years from being on the grid optimistically 5 but maybe 20.
- Reactors are massive, the size of a house or industrial park with prohibitive near billion dollar capital expenses.
- The fusion research community relies on derived empirical scaling laws for energy confinement times in fusion reactor designs, rather than real data.
- The electron kinetic energy power loss from spontaneous electron cyclotron radiation is the key loss mechanism in a magnetically confined fusion plasma with no solution at hand.
- The challenge of magnetically compressing and containing a fusion plasma.
Competitive Comparisons - from ARPA-e Submission
|Electric Fusion Systems||$ 900||$ 5||Excellent|
|Fusion (large stationary reactor)||$ 3,940||$ 25||Poor|
|On-Shore Wind Turbines||$ 1,846||$ 28||Poor|
|Hydroelectric Power||$ 2,752||$ 30||Poor|
|Solar PV Thin Film (utility w/track)||$ 1,248||$ 32||Poor|
|Combined Cycle Gas Turbines||$ 2,471||$ 44||Average|
|Small Modular Fission Nuclear Reactor||$ 3,600||$ 65||Average|
|Ultra-Super Critical Coal Fired||$ 3,672||$ 66||Poor|
|Fuel Cells||$ 7,200||$ 106||Poor|
|Existing Fission (light water nuclear)||$ 6,034||$ 118||Poor|
|Battery Storage (utility 6 hr, 2025)||$ 1,400||$ 187||Average|
|Diesel Reciprocating Eengine||$ 1,813||$ 197||Excellent|
The Fusion Industry Challenge: Plasma Confinement Time
The core question for fusion companies and startups is will their technologies really work and produce an appreciable net power output. This is the single most important scientific question in fusion research dominated by the issue of fusion plasma confinement time. The 2022 poster (link below) develops a scientific model for the confinement time of ion kinetic energy in a material where fusion reactions occur.
In the theoretical model where ion stopping was considered as a key mechanism for ion kinetic energy loss, an estimate was obtained for the confinement time of ion kinetic energy in a warm-dense D-T plasma and others. An advanced Lawson criterion is derived for a magnetically confined thermonuclear fusion reactors. The predicted fusion energy relative to supplied heating energy is modeled and is consistent with the latest fusion energy record achieved experimentally at JET.
The bottom line, everyone, dare we say—fails to get more energy out than in because of the required confinement time versus the magnetic energy required to achieve it.
Electric Fusion System’s approach is different in many ways, and we don’t suffer from these show-stopping issues.