Quirks & Quarks

Are we getting closer to practical fusion power? A new book says … maybe

The Star Builders investigates the current state of fusion research, which the author suggests is closer than ever to becoming a source of plentiful, carbon-neutral and reasonably safe power for an energy hungry world.

The Star Builders looks at new research, and new interest in a power source that could be revolutionary

The U.S. National Ignition Facility uses powerful lasers to compress a pellet of fusion fuel to huge pressures and temperatures. This fall a NIF experiment created fusion reactions that produced a record 70 per cent of the energy required to drive the reaction. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

It's an old joke. Practical power from nuclear fusion is 30 years away, and always has been.

The truth in the joke is that researchers have been trying to harness the power of fusion since the 1950s, making glacial progress toward their goal. 

The potential of fusion is enormous for providing plentiful, carbon-neutral and reasonably safe energy. It could go a long way to solving our climate and energy crisis, and powering the world's increasingly ravenous energy demands. 

The Star Builders by Arthur Turrell (Simon & Schuster)

And in a new book, science writer and physicist Arthur Turrell suggests that while fusion power is not imminent, there's reason to believe that it is achievable.

Turrell describes groundbreaking fusion energy experiments from around the world that are getting closer to the critical threshold of net energy gain, in which more energy is produced by the fusion reaction than is required to drive it.

He also investigates the many new private industry companies that, driven by Silicon Valley venture capital, are bringing new blood and new innovation to fusion energy research.

Turrell's book is called The Star Builders: Nuclear Fusion and the race to Power the Planet.

You can listen to his conversation with Bob McDonald by clicking on the link at the top of this page. Produced and written by Jim Lebans.