Lockheed Martin announced yesterday that its secretive Skunk Works unit is currently working on a fusion reactor that the company hopes will help the world meet the rapidly growing demand for energy. In theory, the compact fusion reactor will be safer, cleaner, and more powerful than nuclear reactors that are currently up and running.
The reactor is expected to be small enough to fit inside of a truck, and will generate enough energy to power 80,000 homes, the Bethesda-based company said on Wednesday. It will burn less than 20kg of fuel annually, producing waste that’s “orders of magnitudes less” than the ash and sludge that spews forth from coal-fueled power plants.
“Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts,” Tom McGuire, compact fusion lead for the Skunk Works Revolutionary Technology Programs, said in the statement.
“Many of the approaches to nuclear fusion right now have significant drawbacks,” said McGuire. “Some of those drawbacks include instability associated with the reaction, he said, and scaling problems, which means the reactor needs to be very large for fusion to work. What’s different about our physics is it’s inherently small and stable.”
Fusion is a promising technology with the potential to generate much more energy than current commercial units which use nuclear fission (fusion and fission are two different things) without the risk of a Fukushima-style meltdown. Lockheed Martin believes that the technology could be deployed within the next 10 years, and would be far more convenient than competing concepts.
Read more about the story at Gizmodo.