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April 1, 2009

MORE FUSION POWER DEVELOPMENTS, reported by Alan Boyle.

All of a sudden, nuclear fusion is becoming an energy buzzword instead of an energy joke: One route to fusion is being hailed as having the potential to become a “holy cow game-changer,” another mainstream method is getting a multimillion-dollar boost, and a dark-horse candidate is stealthily moving forward as well. Heck, even cold fusion is back in the game.

So what’s behind the seemingly sudden interest?

Part of the buzz is dictated by the calendar. After 12 years of construction, the world’s most powerful laser is finally finished at the National Ignition Facility in California, and VIPs are getting a look at some of the best that Big Science has to offer in fusion energy research.

But part of it is dictated by the hard times we’re living in, said Richard Nebel, who heads a team looking at an unconventional kind of fusion technology. “These can be the times when innovation can really take hold,” he told me today. . . . There’s a place for safer nuclear power as well, involving fission as well as future fusion – or maybe even fission-fusion hybrids.

Read the whole thing, and hope that some of this pans out. He’s got an update on Polywell fusion, too.

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