First Nuclear Fusion by 2011? Still No Silver Bullet for Environmental Problems


photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

What spawned that title is not just Friday speculation, but an article at SustainableBusiness.com which says exactly the opposite. I’m taking liberties a bit, as the article confines the silver bullet talk to clean energy:

Clean energy advocates generally shun talk of a "silver-bullet" technology that can replace fossil fuels and provide carbon-free power. However, the promise of fusion-based energy defies the common sense belief that an array of renewable fuel sources is needed to shift away from dirty carbon-based fuels.

The article then goes on to describe work being done at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California:Commercial Deployment by 2030?
Basically, the NIF is nearly completed (fully completed in 2009); Governor Schwarzenegger toured it; the lab’s first ignition attempt will be in 2010; the goal of achieving nuclear fusion is 2011; and afterwards,

An aggressive development of this technology could lead to a LIFE ((Laser Inertial Confinement Fusion-Fission Energy) pilot power generation plant in the 2020 timeframe followed by commercial deployment in the following 10 years.

I don’t want to poo-poo the prospects of nuclear fusion. It really is the holy grail of energy. Though still, if the LLNL says aggressive development could lead to commercial fusion by 2030, I wouldn’t be pinning any climate change/carbon emission reduction plans on it...

Some Perspective: More Than Clean Energy Needed
And while it may be tempting to breathe easy in thinking that such an abundant source of non-carbon emitting energy is two decades away, we also need to be thinking more holistically. What will happen if we simply continue to increase our energy usage, even if from clean sources? Even if powered by clean energy and done in the most efficient manner possible, are natural resource consumption levels associated with a Developed World ‘good life’ scalable to a population of 8 or 9 billion people?

Instead of always looking outward, we need to look more inward (in the language of Ayurveda, more sattvic soul searching and less rajasic perpetual motion) and address this meta-issues of green. How much is enough? How do we actually rein in growth, as measured by increased ecological throughput, and increasing human impact on the planet?

OK. Friday afternoon soapboax away... Let’s cheer every bit of clean energy development, but not lose sight of the even bigger issues. Cheering prospect of nuclear fusion now. Woot!

via: SustainableBusiness and Cleantechnica
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