Energy’s future may be fusion, 747 MAX to fly again

Published 8:06 am Saturday, September 5, 2020

I chose to depart from aviation and space for part of this column.

I saw an article in the latest issue of Popular Mechanics magazine that piqued my interest, so I dug into the subject of energy from fusion.

We are dependent for fusion energy for our very existence. It is what keeps the sun radiating energy across 93 million miles of space to make life possible. The sun does it by fusing hydrogen into helium.

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Several years ago, seven nations got together to start a project to try to heat a plasma up millions of degrees to cause fusion of deuterium and tritium. They are forms of hydrogen, and were chosen because it is believed they would be the easiest to fuse at the lowest temperature to form helium.

The deuterium is abundant in sea water, but in very dilute solution, and they expect that the tritium will be generated from the fusion reaction.

This project, which is being built in France, is very expensive and is expected to cost at least $65 billion by the year 2025. The project is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

They are doing all this to heat up 0.5 gram of the mixture of deuterium and tritium. One estimate is that this amount of the mix used would release energy to be equal to that from eight tons of coal. That is the lowest estimate.
The project team does not plan to use the excess energy it produces.  The heat will just be vented off. At this stage, the goal is to prove a concept, not utilize the energy.

The engineers and scientists have been working on fusion reactors since the 1950s.

They have built 100 and none of which has produced a fusion reaction.

It is surprise to me that seven nations could stay together on a project since 2013, although there 35 nations in all that are contributing financial help or in-kind support.

They expect to have a temperature of 100 million degrees Kelvin. The sun corona temperature is one million degrees Kelvin.

They plan to create plasma and then use the plasma as the resistance heater by passing many megawatts of power through it.

They expect to confine the plasma by a very strong magnetic field generated using super-conductors held at near temperature of absolute zero degrees.

I foresee many problems that will cause a lot of delays.

They have to confine the fast neurons that damage almost anything that they pass through.

I believe that not one of us alive today will see the time when power is generated by fusion.

It is an interesting concept and future generations may have clean, abundant energy generated by it.

I try to keep you up to date on the poor ole Boeing 737 MAX.
In October, the expectation is that the no-fly directive will be lifted. American Airlines is planning on using it in commercial commerce in December.

We have heard predictions of using it again and again for a long time, but I have an opinion that this is going to be accomplished this time.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at