General Fusion has the near-term goal of developing a full-scale prototype fusion power plant for the comparative bargain of $500 million. In September, General Fusion added some serious scientific muscle to its team, appointing two renowned names in energy and technology circles to its board. Frederick W. Buckman, a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT, is a veteran energy executive and CEO of Powerlink Transmission Co.; Jacques Besnainou is the former president and CEO of Areva Group North America, a global player in nuclear power.
General Fusion’s system uses a sphere, filled with molten lead-lithium that is pumped to form a vortex. Plasma is injected into the vortex, and an array of pistons drives a pressure wave into the centre of the sphere to compress the plasma into fusion conditions. It would use abundant raw materials and produce no emissions or radioactive waste.
There have been delays that have disrupted the company’s ideal timeline, but “that’s science.”
“We’re working hard to have a full prototype system in the next few years,” says Delage. “The goal we’re focused on right now is getting to the point where we can build that full-size complete prototype.”
If General Fusion succeeds they plan to produce fusion system that generate power at about 3-5 cents per kWh. This would be competitive with coal and natural gas.
Rick Whittaker, vice president and chief technology officer from Sustainable Technology Development Canada. Whittaker’s agency supplied around one third of General Fusion’s investment money. He predicts commercialization right around the corner. “I place this one in the 2020 timeframe.”
General Fusion’s system has three key advantages that allow for rapid and lower cost development, and a fast path to commercialization:
1. A thick liquid metal wall
2. A compressed gas driver
3. No consumables
To make a major impact on the energy landscape, fusion must be both technically viable and economically competitive with existing energy sources. General Fusion's entire approach to fusion technology stems from a commitment to commercial viability and a drive to use economics to displace the low cost, carbon-based incumbents of coal and natural gas.
Proving It Can Be Built
General Fusion is developing key subsystems at full scale to demonstrate that they can meet their performance targets. This includes full scale plasma injectors and acoustic drivers, and liquid metal vortex compression tests.
Full Scale, Net Gain Prototype
In the next phase of development, General Fusion will be constructing a full scale prototype system. The prototype will be designed for single pulse testing, demonstrating full net energy gain on each pulse.
Goal 6 times the fusion energy is released than is the piston energy input
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