Question: Richard, it’s been a year since we last spoke with you. What’s the latest status of the project?
2018 has seen the company begin construction of Ion and Hall-Effect Thruster prototypes which have been specially adapted to work with a compact nuclear fusion reactor. The company has also begun negotiations with the relevant council about building a new facility in 2019. It is our mission to build a facility which is not just about engineering tokamaks but also for the education of fusion technology.
Question: We note from the press that Applied Fusion Systems is currently filing a patent for a new nuclear fusion rocket engine. Could you tell us more about this development and the impact you hope it may have on space travel?
Nuclear Fusion technology development is not just about energy. NASA believes spherical tokamaks are capable of generating extremely high exhaust speeds and may hold the key to interstellar space travel. Applied Fusion is considering the practical applications of this challenge. We have developed some initial prototypes effectively engineering how tokamak might function as a rocket.
Question: You recently featured in Seeker’s “How Close Are We to Fusion Energy?” video. In your opinion how close do you think we are to fusion energy being proven commercially viable?
Commercially viable requires a ‘Q positive’ fusion burn, which in short means we get more energy out than required to run the reactor. Applied Fusion Systems has taken part in many educational and scientific talks around the world on fusion energy this year. This is a question we hear often.
Humanity already has the know how to generate a Q positive fusion burn today. The technical and scientific ‘capability’ is already here.
If you take a look at the work being done on ITER, it is no longer a scientific mission but one of large scale construction. The technical and scientific ‘capability’ is defiantly already here. We just need to wait for the big machine to turn on and prove that statement.
How long do multi government, bureaucratic organisations take to complete a massive test fusion reactor?
Way longer than they should. To quote Robert Heinlein; An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications. This has never been more accurate than when describing ITER.
The good news is, this sector now is ideal for private technology research firms like AFS. Fusion development does not require weapons grade enriched fission material or anything of the sort. Fusion does not rely upon a chain reaction so there is no chance of a runaway reaction that could lead to a meltdown. In the event of an equipment failure, the small amount of fuel available stops reacting instantly and the plant cools automatically.
Additionally, pioneering fusion energy will produce economic benefits.
The establishment of a high-tech industry will bring vast new streams of revenue to leading industrial companies and new jobs. Creating a new industry that will give the those involved a “first mover advantage”.
In my view, the technology is probably 7 – 10 years away from commercial viability being proven out. Sadly this outlook doesn’t fit the financial model of most VC’s and angel investment networks who typically seek an exit in 3-5 years. Hence as of 2018, fusion is exclusively a billionaire’s investment. I personally believe they will be well rewarded for their patience.
If you would like to know more, why not read my book The Fusion Age- Modern Nuclear Reactors. Available on amazon prime. It’s a short read for non-scientists, seeking to understand the facts of fusion, get a basic understanding of the technology, learn what TR level it is actually at and the corresponding political landscape. Energy Markets are $7 trillion annually, Fusion is predicted to be the world’s dominant power source by 2100. Fusion is worth learning about.