http://issues.org/31-4/fusion-research- ... -new-path/
It's dated "Summer 2015) so I don't know for sure when it was published, but I surmise sometime in the past coupla/few months.
In it, Hirsch takes a long sober look at the $50-Billion (!!) being spent on ITER and pretty well declares it one of the deepest money pits ever dug:
Now, I know a lot of the regulars here think that the Fusor is a fun thing to play with but has no practical future, but jeez, at least it's never cost $50-BILLION dollars to build one!Since a power-producing tokamak was understood to be very complex and expensive, a number of countries decided to develop a prototype together. It is called ITER and was initially supported by the United States, the Soviet Union, the European Union, and Japan. Later China and South Korea joined the project, and the 500 MW ITER was formally launched in 2007 to be built in France. ITER is a 30-meter tall device that will weigh over 20,000 tons and include roughly a million parts. The project has already encountered significant cost overruns and delays, and completion is now planned for 2027—about a decade later than the original target.
As this analysis will show, tokamak fusion power will almost certainly be a commercial failure, which is a tragedy in light of the time, funds, and effort so far expended. However, this particular failure does not mean that fusion power is a dead end. Research is under way on other technological approaches, which can benefit from the lessons learned from the tokamak experience. First we must understand where the tokamak approach went off the tracks.
For me, I read something like this and just get past the irony: there is a fusion process that gets not even a measurable fraction of what's being spent on ITER THAT BEARS HIRSCH'S OWN NAME but does he ever suggest "maybe we should take another look at this one..."?
Last week I crawled around in my basement until I found the recordings I made when I was researching my Farnsworth bio back in the early 'aughts. There are a couple of interviews there that I did with Hirsch (the interviews were recorded on something called "mini discs" - now all I need to do is find something to play them on).
My recollection could be fuzzy here, but my recollection is that what I wanted to know from Hirsch was "do we have a definitive answer regarding the viability of the Farnsworth approach to fusion?" And what I recall is that Hirsch's answer was something along the lines of "no, we don't have a definitive answer."
I thought I had quoted along those lines in the book, but looking now at pages 245-247 that's not what I am seeing. What I am seeing instead is Hirsch marveling at they way these things get funded, and extent to which the authorities in the field were dismissive of Philo Farnsworth:
Really? Ya think?...they were...uncomfortable with Farnsworth, in the sense that he was an inventor, a farm boy with just dribs and drabs of education, who in fact conceived and developed one of the most significant technological advances of the 20th century, and here he was coming along with fusion, and I don't know if it was ego or what but there was something strange there..."
Now here he is, speaking disparagingly of the ultimate ITERation of the approach that he aligned himself with after he couldn't get anywhere with the Farnsworth approach. I wonder if he'd be willing to take another look at it now? You know, now that he's in his dotage... what's he got to lose?
(How old is he now, anyway? Has to be at least in his 70s, maybe closer to his 80s... but I can't seem to find a birth date anywhere, not even in his Wikiedia page.)
There's an e-mail address at the bottom of the article linked above. Maybe I'll ask him...