2020-01-29 Fusion Thoughts About The Future, Pros, Cons

So many ideas about the future promises of nuclear fusion power, how it will affect the world.

Will nuclear fusion ever become a reality? It remains to be seen. In the meantime we will have to make do with renewable energy, mostly wind and solar. The goal is to greatly reduce use of fossil fuels and restore stability to the climate.

It will take even more time than has already been spent to make fusion an inexpensive form of power. The machines that will do it will be very complex and expensive. Hopefully over time the cost of fusion power will become so inexpensive that the power itself will not need to be metered, the charges will be for transmission and delivery.

Since electricity will be very low cost, there will be much less concern about the efficiency of generation and transmission. The low costs will allow the fusion electric generation plant(s) to be located in a centralized location, probably away from populated areas. The low cost would allow transmission of electricity for long distances to far away towns and villages where power transmission has been too expensive. The local distribution will also be possible due to the low cost.

In locations where it would be difficult to run transmission lines, the electricity’s low cost will allow it to be converted to a transportable form, such as hydrogen. This can be compressed and stored in mobile container vehicles, trucks, railroad cars or ships. The hydrogen would be used to power fuel cells to generate electricity and co-generate heat, and the byproduct will be pure water, which could be used. The efficiency of the overall system would not be a concern because the fusion generates so much electricity so cheaply that there are no excessive costs. The overall system would be as efficient as fossil fuel generation plants, which are 40% or less.

The fusion energy will allow the use of fossil fuels to be greatly reduced. This will save the environment and climate. The electricity for transportation will be very inexpensive so most land and sea vehicles will be electric powered. In the far future it may be possible to reduce the size of a fusion power plant to where it could be used to power mobile vehicles such as ships and airplanes. If the fusion power plant can run continuously then it could be used for generating electricity and heat locally, and then the power is inexpensive and it can be used to charge storage batteries that will furnish electricity when the vehicle is away being used.

The gasoline pumps at service stations will be replaced with hydrogen ‘pumps’. There will be very few gasoline pumps, and those few will be E85, gasoline but mostly ethanol which is renewable.

The waste heat from electricity generation could be used to sterilize and distill water to make recycling waste water possible. The waste heat could also be used, along with light from electricity to grow crops during winter or even year round when in colder climates.

The cheap electricity will be used to refine aluminum from its ore. This has always been an electricity intensive operation. But the lower cost will mean more aluminum will be used in almost everything. The electricity could replace the fossil fuels now used in refining other metals. Processes have to be developed to make replacing or reducing fossil fuel use.

Manufacturing processes will have to be changed or replaced to eliminate fossil fuels. If possible, hydrogen can be used.

The jet fuel used in airplanes will have to be mitigated – it is still a source of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is causing global warming. Since fusion electricity will be so low cost, the demand for it will rise exponentially. One area that will require a great amount will be removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When this is done, it may be possible to make useful organic compounds with it. In that case, the carbon dioxide from the airplanes may be recycled back into jet fuel or aviation gasoline, so there will be net zero emissions from airplanes. This also applies to other fossil fuels. It may be possible to generate enough electricity to remove enough carbon dioxide to reduce the global warming.

One problem that must be considered is the amount of heat generated in making fusion electricity. If it is a large amount, it in itself could become a major contributor to global warming. This has to be evaluated so that the proper decisions can be made on how to prevent this excess heat from becoming a problem. There is no Planet B. We can’t move to another planet; we have to take good care of the only one we have.

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