Focus Fusion – fusion running on aneutronic fuels within a plasma focus device, is safe and environmentally sound. No neutrons are produced in the main reaction. No neutrons produced means no nuclear waste is produced either. Secondary reactions between helium and boron nuclei do produce a few neutrons—1/500th of the total energy—but these neutrons are too low-energy to produce radioactive waste within the machine structure. An electrode that had been in the machine for a month would have no radioactivity above background level. A short-lived radioactive isotope, carbon-11, is produced by another secondary reaction, but it decays so swiftly , dropping by 50% every 20 minutes, that 9 hours after a fusion generator is turned off, it could be safely opened and serviced by someone with no protective gear. Again no radioactivity above background level would exist. And of course, there are no greenhouse gases, with the only by-product being useful helium gas.
Aneutronic fusion—fusion power using hydrogen-boron fuel, without neutrons or radioactive waste–if successfully developed, would be by far the “greenest”, most environmentally friendly and socially beneficial of any energy source on the horizon. It shares the advantages of other “green energy” sources, but it also has major benefits beyond any others. Most critically it will be far cheaper than existing energy sources, so will be able to replace them swiftly.
Advantages aneutronic fusion shares with solar, wind, geothermal tidal and ocean thermal:
- No green house gases. The only by-product of the hydrogen-boron fusion process is helium.
- No fuel spillage. A 5MW generator needs only a kilogram of fuel each year. No more Deep Horizons!
- No radioactive waste. Because the hydrogen-boron reaction produces no high energy neutrons, no radioactive waste is produced.
- Unlimited energy. If we take boron out of seawater, there is enough boron to last us a billion years at ten time’s current energy production rates.
- Decentralized power—5 MW fusion generators would be so safe they could be placed in residential neighborhoods, reducing dependence on fragile transmission networks.
Advantages unique to aneutronic fusion:
- Much cheaper than all existing energy sources. Because it is extremely compact, aneutronic fusion would be at least ten times cheaper than any existing energy sources, with electricity costs below 0.2 cent per kWh. No other green energy source today costs less than 10 cents per kWh. By out-competing coal and other fossil fuel technologies on price alone, carbon-neutral Focus Fusion will be rapidly adopted once it is demonstrated. With Focus Fusion, we will dramatically cut our emission of greenhouse gases. Coal plants and oil refineries will be phased out as ending the destruction of land and water to harvest coal and oil shale. Forests will return to strip mining regions. Alaskan wilderness will be spared from drilling. Vast tracts of land will be liberated from hydropower plants as the dams can be taken down or used only for flood mitigation. The transition to electrical transportation will get a huge boost as the cost of charging an electric car will drop far below gasoline.
- Much less impact on the environment. Because they are so small for their power, aneutronic fusion generators will have a small impact overall on the environment, including mining the material needed to make them. Each 5 MW generator will weigh about 3 tons and occupy a small building the size of a garage, about 20 square meters. By contrast, solar energy requires at least 10,000 square meters—2 football fields– for the same power and 1600 tons of material. A 5MW wind turbine has a support over 100 meters tall, a rotor diameter of over 120 meters and weighs more than 500 tons.
- Steady source of power. Focus Fusion generators will produce steady power, that can be switched on or off in small, 5 MW increments as load varies, in contract to solar and wind whose output is both variable and somewhat unpredictable. In fact, during the transition to an all-fusion economy, Focus Fusion generators can be used to stabilize the grid relative to the variable inputs from solar and wind. In fact, New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities expressed interest in just this possibility.
These advantages have a huge social impact. Aneutronic fusion could be introduced rapidly, once it is developed, as its cheapness would make it easy to replace existing power sources. Even more important, if could be introduced widely the poorest parts of the world, such as Africa and the Indian subcontinent, where wide swaths of the population have today no access to electricity. Finally, extremely cheap energy would make possible almost complete recycling, as it would be possible to have all waste from every source—garbage, industrial waste– recycled to raw materials in ultra-high temperature plasma torches. Toxic dumps can be wiped out with plasma torches and reduced to their elements and it would be possible to even remove carbon dioxide form the atmosphere.