An Associated Press headline out of Paris, France, this week:Nations Sign $13 billion nuclear fusion project
PARIS - Nations representing half the world’s population signed a long-awaited, $12.8 billion pact Tuesday for a nuclear fusion reactor that could revolutionize global energy use for future generations.
The ITER project by the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea will attempt to combat global warming by harnessing the fusion that runs the sun, creating an alternative to polluting fossil fuels.
But the project is still only experimental and will take decades to get going — and environmental groups say it may not even work.
If you have one of those "we have been this way before" moments - we suppose it would be okay to say "deja vu" - you are not mistaken. The enlightened nations of the world rediscover the promise of fusion energy about every 25 years, pledge a massive "save the world" project, spend one hell of a lot of money, and so far have achieved squat. No sustained fusion reaction, no production of energy greater than the amount actually used to fire up the experiment.
(That is, of course, if you do not count the hydrogen bomb. It works real well and produces energy well in excess of input.)
Raymond Orbach of the U.S. Department of Energy said, “This energy represents the hope of the world.”
Yeah, that's what they said the last time, and we got all excited, and just like promise of a flying car our hopes have been dashed to pieces. And PSO/AEP is still asking the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for permission to raise our electricity rates! The Jacques Chirac-led bunch in France isn't even promising quick relief.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor will be built in Cadarache in the southern French region of Provence. It is expected to create about 10,000 jobs and take about eight years to build.
Some 400 scientists from around the world would operate the reactor, and officials hope to set up a demonstration power plant in Cadarache around 2040. If it works, only then could the energy be made commercially available.
Many of us will be long dead by the time the utility companies get around to billing us for those kilowatt hours. But lest we despair, there is another piece of news on yon internets about a young man in suburban Detroit, home of the amazing Automobile, who has created a fusion reactor in his basement.
On the surface, Thiago Olson is like any typical teenager.
He's on the cross country and track teams at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills. He's a good-looking, clean-cut 17-year-old with a 3.75 grade point average, and he has his eyes fixed on the next big step: college.
But to his friends, Thiago is known as "the mad scientist."
In the basement of his parents' Oakland Township home, tucked away in an area most aren't privy to see, Thiago is exhausting his love of physics on a project that has taken him more than two years and 1,000 hours to research and build -- a large, intricate machine that , on a small scale, creates nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fusion -- when atoms are combined to create energy -- is "kind of like the holy grail of physics," he said.
Pointing to the steel chamber where all the magic happens, Thiago said on Friday that this piece of the puzzle serves as a vacuum. The air is sucked out and into a filter.
Then, deuterium gas -- a form of hydrogen -- is injected into the vacuum. About 40,000 volts of electricity are charged into the chamber from a piece of equipment taken from an old mammogram machine. As the machine runs, the atoms in the chamber are attracted to the center and soon -- ta da -- nuclear fusion.
Thiago said when that happens, a small intense ball of energy forms.
He first achieved fusion in September and has been perfecting the machine he built in his parents' garage ever since.
Forget the $13 billion international showcase and give this kid a grant, say maybe a million dollars or thereabouts and get out of his way.