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Former US Fusion Chief, Senior Researchers Say Start-up’s Program Merits Much Higher Investment
An independent scientific review indicates that an economical and clean source of fusion energy may soon become reality.
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics has been developing an extremely low-cost approach to fusion power based on a device called the dense plasma focus (DPF). In contrast to the giant tokamak machines that have been the recipients of most fusion funding, a DPF can fit in a small room. LPP’s final feasibility experiments and planned commercial generators will use hydrogen-boron fuel, which produces no radioactive waste and promises extremely economical clean energy.
The committee of researchers was led by Dr. Robert Hirsch, a former director of fusion research for the US Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency. Other members of the committee were Dr. Stephen O. Dean, President of Fusion Power Associates and former director of fusion Magnetic Confinement Systems for the Department of Energy; Professor Gerald L. Kulcinski, Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
The committee’s report pointed to the “innovative thinking and experimental results achieved thus far by Mr. (Eric J.) Lerner and his team at LPP.” At the same time, the scientists did not minimize the remaining work that still needs to be done to experimentally validate the predictions of LPP’s theory of DPF functioning and lay the foundation for commercial fusion generators. Commenting on the report, LPP’s President and Chief Scientist Lerner said, “We agree with the review committee that several of our predictions still need to be proved in the laboratory, which is what we intend to do in the near future.”
The LPP team has stated that, given adequate funding, they can demonstrate in a year or two the scientific feasibility of fusion energy with the DPF and hydrogen-boron fuel, a combination the team calls “Focus Fusion.” They expect that a working prototype generator can then be developed in a few years more.
The review committee broadly supported that short-term timeframe, concluding: “While a number of near-term physics issues remain to be resolved, it is likely that with adequate financial support these matters could be addressed in a relatively short period of time, e.g. a few years.” If these issues are addressed, “the committee does not see any fundamental roadblock to power system viability.” In other words, a functioning, economical and clean new source of energy may soon become reality.