Nuclear Fusion is often presented as the Holy Grail of electricity production. This website shows why building a fusion power plant is very difficult to achieve and may never become a reality.
This page introduces the many immense challenges for tokamak fusion power plants using deuterium-tritium fuel. Some of the problems discussed for commercial fusion may be insurmountable.
A basic knowledge of nuclear physics is required to properly understand the issues related to the generation of electricity from nuclear reactions. This page gives an introduction to essential concepts which will be used in later pages of the website.
The understanding of controlled nuclear fusion on Earth requires some knowledge of the physics involved. This page explains some basics ideas needed to follow the subsequent discussions on this website.
Two possibilities for nuclear power generation exist, one in operation for 70 years, fission, and one which has been in development for the same period, fusion. Features of fusion and fission power production are compared showing advantages claimed by fusion advocates are exaggerated.
The cost of fusion, relative to other electricity sources, will be the primary decider for commercial power. Estimates from literature are presented, together with new estimates, based on simple arguments. The conclusion is that the cost of fusion is likely to be 10 times more than fission.
The neutrons from fusion reactions make certain materials radioactive via neutron activation. This will produce large volumes of radioactive waste which must be managed for hundreds or even thousands of years.
The materials in a reactor must survive damage from the enormous flux of neutrons emitted from the fusion reactions. This problem is as yet unsolved and with current materials reactor components will have to be replaced on a regular basis.
Safety is often evoked to suggest that fusion is preferable to fission, but many risks exist for fusion reactors which are similar to those of fission reactors. A major risk for both fission and fusion is loss of coolant followed by hydrogen explosions.
The quantity of tritium naturally occurring is small and essentially all tritium supplies come from CANDU fission reactors. In a few decades most of these special reactors will stop operations and the global supply of tritium will be close to zero before commercial fusion reactors can be brought into operation.
After decades of research, most efforts towards fusion power are based on magnetic confinement fusion with tokamak devices. The ITER machine, in construction since 2010, is the latest such device and it is planned to follow on with a number of demonstration fusion power plants before the final goal of commercial fusion power plants.
The Breeder Blanket is the most critical and complicated component of a fusion reactor because of the dual functions of heat extraction and tritium breeding. Much remains to be done for the decision on the optimum technology and this necessitates a dedicated test facility.
The divertor is the device which implements the exhaust of the plasma at the end on a confinement cycle. The limiter scraps the edge off the plasma in disruptions and complements the role of the divertor. These components have the highest radiation damage in the tokamak because of the high dose of neutrons they receive.
Superconducting magnets are the core enabling technology for magnetic confinement fusion reactors. The reliability of the magnets is essential for the operation of a fusion power plant.
Because of the system complexity, the time a fusion power plant is fully operational to produce electricity could be low. The fusion reactor availability will be reduced by necessary scheduled maintenance as well as component breakdowns.
The enormous physical size of the ITER tokamak and the complexity of the associated systems required for operations, raise serious doubts that commercial reactors of even bigger scale could ever be viable.
The developments of materials and tritium breeder blankets for fusion reactors lack progress. These developments require special test facilities which provide a flux of neutrons similar to that of an operational fusion reactor. No adequate test facility is yet in operation.
After ITER, plans diverge around the world for arriving at commercial fusion power. Schedules towards the construction of mainstream fusion power plants in a number of countries are presented.
The mainstream approach toward commercial fusion reactor has major "show-stoppers". This page summarizes problems discussed throughout this website.
Alternative approaches exist to the mainstream fusion methodology of tokamaks and deuterium-tritium fuel. Recently, start-up companies have been launched based on private finance to explore these new approaches. The new ideas include innovations to magnetic confinement fusion as well as inertial confinement fusion and hybrid techniques.
Fusion power only really makes sense if it has clear advantages over fission power. Fusion advocates claim this is the case, but this page summarizes the arguments that fusion has, in fact, no significant advantages over fission.
The final conclusion of this website is that nuclear fusion commercial reactors will never be competitive with nuclear fission reactors. For this and other reasons commercial fusion reactors will never come into service.