Scientists reveal plan to bring us into nuclear fusion age by 2030

31 Jan 2017

Atomic particle illustration. Image: Ezume Images/Shutterstock

A team of scientists based in Canada is eager to make nuclear fusion a reality, and now it has published a report estimating that it will need C$125m to do so.

While US president Donald Trump promises to return the country’s fossil fuel industry to its former glory, scientists across the border in Canada are attempting to lay the groundwork for introducing nuclear fusion energy by the year 2030.

The Fusion 2030 report compiled by researchers from Canadian universities and nuclear fusion research organisations highlights the need for bringing the technology to a usable level in the face of climate change, as well as a need to satisfy ever-increasing energy demands.

C$100trn future energy demand

Unlike nuclear fission energy that has been in use for decades, a nuclear fusion reactor could potentially be one of the greatest breakthroughs in humankind, with near-limitless amounts of energy for large-scale use.

Also, unlike the hazardous nuclear waste created during the nuclear fission process, nuclear fusion would create almost zero emissions, or waste for a fraction of the cost.

In the report, the researchers highlight that global energy demand for new electricity generation will need an investment of a staggering C$100trn.

“The prospect of fusion satisfying worldwide demand motivates the large international effort to harness this clean, sustainable energy source,” the report stated.

“Given that the countries involved represent over half the world’s population, it can be anticipated that fusion will become an important energy source by mid-century or sooner.”

Calls on government assistance

To help Canada become the world leader in fusion technology, the report advises that the current government set aside C$125m to be spread over the next five years to fund the various research organisations.

“This visionary investment will ensure that Canada will have highly qualified people trained, and [will be] ready to participate and grow businesses in the international fusion areas.

“This proposed initial investment will also help provide Canada with the necessary expertise to assess and advise on the next steps to expand this programme.”

One of those behind the report is Mike Delage, CTO of General Fusion, who admitted to CBC News that it will take significant sums of money to commercialise the technology, even with the C$125m in funding.

“There is so much going on in this field across the world,” he said. “We really believe by 2030, we’re going to see demonstration plants being built. We’d love to see that in Canada, and we could get there if we start to invest now.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic