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Almost exactly a year ago, I began a series of five articles on “Our First, Best, and Only Hope.” Hope to restore America’s economy through the development of new energy sources and services that can be shared profitably throughout the world to pay down our current (and mushrooming) $16 trillion national debt. Hope for all mankind to thrive in today’s world … and for generations to come. Read my five-part series: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4 and Article 5.
The solution, of course, is for America to correctly solve energy needs once and for all by developing a virtually inexhaustible, environmentally perfect source of power. It’s not solar, wind or any type of fossil fuel. And it’s been known in the scientific community for decades!
It’s controlled fusion energy.
I started by admitting I’m not a scientist. But I’m a concerned citizen; I’m curious and creative; I was born with a high IQ and active intelligence; and I made it my business to seek logical answers to the looming world energy crisis. I’ve been schooled and mentored by several real scientists – and I’ve been complimented by many in the scientific community for making very complex topics understandable to non-scientists like me. (I’m supplying some links in this column for those who want to check on what I’m saying.)
And, pursuing “The Holy Grail of Energy,” there has been some exciting, promising progress!
First, note the recent announcement of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo in his March 5, 2012, government report that China will cease its blind expansion in solar and wind power and concentrate on nuclear and hydro energy sources. Why? Because solar and wind power have proven to be far too unpredictable and expensive to use “on the power grid.” The State Grid of China has now calculated that less than 1 percent of China’s electric power could be obtained from solar. Get it? China looks at all this realistically … and so far, we don’t.
As objective scientific enquiry and free enterprise take hold in China, these practical people are changing course dramatically. There were less than 300,000 cars in Beijing in 2005; there are over 5 million today! And it is projected that if all these cars were electric, it would require over 115 square miles of solar panels to operate them, just three hours a day, six days a week!
Do you understand the connection between electricity and transportation? Oil, gas and coal are the “drivers,” and even the source of electricity for batteries. And this world will inevitably run out of all of them. At best, it will likely take 20 years to develop a major new source of power, and long before then petroleum will be very expensive to provide and distribute. Knowing that, China has announced it will expend $15 billion to initiate an electric-car industry within its borders. And Renault’s “Better Place” in Israel is working toward replacing most of Israel’s gas autos with its Renault ZE, a Honda Accord-sized practical family car … electric.
Alarmingly, America is becoming woefully behind the curve. We’re slow to realize a new source of energy must be found very soon, not just for the United States, but for the entire world.
Yet the solution is not new. Millions of school kids have heard the answer; they just don’t know it. E=MC2 is probably the most commonly recited scientific formula in the country by non-scientists. Yet what does it mean? It means Mass and Energy are simply different forms of the same thing – and can be converted from one form to another. And it means that a little bit of mass, or matter, can be converted into huge amounts of energy. That is what controlled fusion energy is all about: converting a very small amount of matter into huge amounts of energy. Click here for Albert Einstein’s own words and voice (MP3.)
Has this ever been done? Certainly. “Show me,” you say. OK. On Oct. 30, 1961, the Russians triggered a fusion reaction that generated enough energy to power the entire city of Las Vegas for over two and a half years! The “fuel” was about 23 kilograms of hydrogen and lithium isotopes.
This followed Nikita Kruschev’s promise to show the U.S. a “Kuz’kina Mat” (“we’ll show you”) at the 1960 U.N. General Assembly. Russians referred to this event as the “Tsar Bomba,” or “king of bombs,” although the actual device was never intended as a tactical bomb, too heavy and complex. Nonetheless, it generated unbelievable energy – and remarkably clean in terms of any unintended byproducts, including radioactivity.
And America had already done something similar, on a smaller scale, in March of 1954 when it tested the first deployable “hydrogen bomb” called “Castle Bravo.”
Unfortunately, both of these events – demonstrating that man could vastly multiply available resource through the fusion of light elements, as opposed to the fission of plutonium and heavy radioactive elements – occurred in a military and weapons context. And that derailed and delayed the development of the far more desirable fusion.
Fusion of light elements and its ability to serve as an energy source was first predicted by Atkinson & Houtermans in 1929 in a groundbreaking paper published in Berlin. In 1939, Hans Bethe showed how fusion powers the sun and stars and received the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work. In 1942, American physicist Dr. Edward Teller had called for academic discussions on peacetime uses of fusion energy before the Los Alamos lab was operational. Then in 1950, Russian physicists Andrei Sakharov and Igor Tamm collaborated – leading to the early concepts of magnetic confinement fusion and the tokomak, based on a letter sent to the Soviet leadership by an army sergeant named Oleg Lavrentyev.
Then things got badly complicated, with a number of “flies in the ointment”: the end of World War II, the rapid rise of Communism, and the arrests of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the U.S., who were conveying military and atomic weapons secrets to the Soviets. Both Dr. Sakharov in Russia and Dr. Teller in America were conscripted by their governments to develop thermonuclear weapons, employing fission to trigger fusion. Teller swiftly developed the Teller-Ulam hydrogen bomb design used in the Castle Bravo test.
Wildly productive fusion was being elbowed aside for wildly destructive fission. It was the world’s – and civilization’s – loss.
Still seeking peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Sakharov in 1962 proposed the use of lasers in what would become a branch of fusion development called Inertial Confinement Fusion, or ICF. More about that later.
In America, Dr. Teller developed an important principle involving the use of X-rays to implode hydrogen targets, thereby triggering fusion reactions. Though he used it in his hydrogen-bomb design, he also knew this could be the secret to the peaceful deployment of controlled fusion for energy production. His discoveries in fusion ignition eventually led to his founding the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories along with Ernest Lawrence in 1952.
Work on fusion development was also going on in the U.K., but the Rosenberg spy scandal and other intrigues involving German-British scientist Klaus Fuchs quickly caused all fusion work in the U.K. to be “classified,” and the U.S. followed suit. But Teller strenuously objected, writing his fellow Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard: “Our only hope is in getting the facts before the people. This might help convince everybody that the next war will be fatal (for all of mankind) … and this responsibility must in the end be shifted to the people as a whole and that can be done only by making the facts known.”
And that’s exactly why I, and my mentors, feel these articles are so vitally important. If Americans can come to understand how crucial fusion energy is, and will exercise the power of the people, America can win our future. If we don’t … we will be a Third World country.
Please don’t miss the next two articles.