Due to the announcement to day of the commitment of the US government to $7.5 million of funding to enable components to be built and installed at the new Wendelstein 7-X fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany there is a bit of fluff in the NY Times about the potential of Fusion for solving our energy needs. Classically the writer starts of by saying that Fusion is completely safe and then proceeds to discuss the issues surrounding the containment of 100million degree mini suns. Saying they can successfully contain them for upto a whole second at a time and generate upto 16million watts during that 1 second period.
The aim of all this research is to be able to contain a plasma sun for upto 30 minutes at a time and convert the heat of 100 million degrees into steam energy which can be used to power steam turbines. A noble idea and a concept with a lot of promise but we really have to wonder if that is completely safe. In much the same way that existing nuclear energy production is not safe and we cannot rely on humans to actually follow through with the safety requirements to make things as safe as possible and given that the bean counters who manage the finances for the nuclear industry do not give a damn about preemptive safety in general relying on the rules written down in outdated manuals rather than preparing for the worst and investing heavily in the resources required to fix any large scale problems that may occur. Do we really want to have mini suns popping up all over the planet maintained by the same forces that have so demonstrably showed their ineptitude with the Fukushima and Gulf Oil Crises?
Until we fix the problem of accountants making the final decisions on what is deemed permissible for the functioning of the facilities that put our entire world at risk, we will never have a completely safe nuclear industry.