Lockheed Martin revives hope of forever ending the energy shortage

Credit: Eric Schulzinger/Lockheed Martin

That’s right, we’re talking about nuclear fusion reactors. In October of 2014, Lockheed announced that they might actually be on to something. They are planning for a 10-second demonstration in five years . . . . 

Lockheed’s plan runs in the opposite direction than that of the ITER’s $16 billion, 500 megawatt monstrosity. They are going for small: 100-megawatt units that fit on a 23 x 43 foot trailer:

“That’s the size we are thinking of now. You could put it on a semi-trailer, similar to a small gas turbine, put it on a pad, hook it up and can be running in a few weeks,” McGuire says. The concept makes use of the existing power infrastructures to enable the CFR to be easily adapted into the current grid. The 100-MW unit would provide sufficient power for up to 80,000 homes in a power-hungry U.S. city and is also “enough to run a ship,” he notes.

They think they can get the first test unit running in five years, then the first production version five years after that, or 2024. Compare this to the ITER’s predicted timeline to “begin operations” in 2027. It’s vague as to what “begin operations” actually means.

If Lockheed follows through, this’ll be an historical breakthrough. They will also, being a private free-market enterprise, have beaten government-funded projects to the punch.

It will result in decentralization of the power grid. Instead of having much larger, but fewer, power plants, there will be an increase in the number of smaller plants built across the country (and the world). This will require new infrastructure: substations, power lines, and so on.

This should be good news for electrical engineers.

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