Oh Boy, More Tokamaks!

I have been taking exception lately to the notion that “Fusion is the energy of the future and always will be.”

For starters, while the line is clever verbiation (don’t bother looking it up, I just made that one up), it is also something of a self-defeating prophesy.

As the protagonist (who just happens to be a dog named “Enzo”) in the novel “The Art of Racing In The Rain” is fond of saying, “that which we manifest is before us.”  In other words, if that’s what you think is true, then, well, by golly… it probably is. For you.

But I get where such skepticism comes from when I read an article like this one that showed up in my Google Alerts (“nuclear fusion”) this morning:

The magnetic fusion device, tokamak, has been a focus for extensive research the world over, and will emerge as the energy option of the future by 2050. Tokamak aims to determine the economic and technological viability of using fusion energy to greater effect to produce electricity.

Did I read that right? “…will emerge as the energy option of the future by 2050…”? Well there ya go, it’ll be in the future… in the future.

Since so much of the research in fusion is devoted to tokamaks, I begin to understand where the attitude comes from.  Whatever their “potential,” tokamaks are so complex that it seems doubtful to me (admittedly a marginally knowledgeable observer) that they will ever achieve “economic and technological viability.” So yeah, sure, maybe the Tokamak will prove viable in another 35 years. Never mind that we’ve already been working with that approach for 50…

Perhaps more revealing is the statement that opens the article:

The Department of Atomic Energy has handpicked a Thapar University scientist to work on a prestigious nuclear fusion program…

I think that tells you all you need to know about institutional magnetic fusion projects.  They’re not about energy.  They’re about prestige.