Fusion is unsafe, too uncertain, too expensive and, if it is even possible, will still come far too late to address either climate change or Britain’s energy needs, says the UK’s Nuclear Free Local Authorities.
Slamming claims of a ‘major break-through’, Councillor David Blackburn, Chair of the NFLA, noted that scientists have made similar claims for decades when it has come to fusion. Commenting he said:
“Fusion has since the Second World War been heralded as the next big evolutionary development in our energy supply, and scientists have made similar claims for decades when it has come to fusion leading to countless billions being invested in this illusionary technology.”
Emeritus Professor of Energy Policy Stephen Thomas of the University of Greenwich suggested a motivation for the latest claims:
“It has always been said that fusion breakthroughs occur when there is a need for more public funding.”
Fusion is a complex technology to master, representing an attempt to reproduce on Earth the nuclear reactions that take place in the sun. As the Earth lacks the immense gravity of the Sun, the interior of the reactor must be superheated to 100 million degrees centrigrade (or six times the temperature of the Sun). Generating fusion reactions to date have used many times more energy than the energy produced, making fusion a technology that remains economically unviable. The reactor also requires intricate cooling and containment systems which ‘gobbles up’ much of the energy it produces; if these failed at any time reactor safety would be compromised.
Fusion is neither green nor safe. Neutrons produced by the reaction would bombard the walls of the reactor and its housing which over time would threaten the integrity of the structure. The radioactive tritium gas that is produced poses a real danger to public health even at very low levels if it enters the air or our water supply. And, like fission power, fusion would result in radioactive waste that will need to be safely stored and managed for countless years.
The UK Government is currently looking at five sites, one of which will soon be chosen to host a new experimental fusion reactor and has pledged £200 million towards its development.
Councillor Blackburn is sceptical there will be any result anytime soon:
“The earliest estimates that any fusion reactor could come on stream is in the late 2040’s, and that even assumes the technology will ever be mastered or economically viable. There is a need for humanity to address climate change and a need for Britons to address the energy crisis now. Fusion will come 30 years too late if at all. All of us are facing huge hikes in our energy bills, and we need power sources that are green, available now and affordable to keep our lights on and heat our homes.
“The UK Government has foolishly continued to pour billions of taxpayer money into the fusion delusion and other grandiose nuclear projects, whilst strangling financial support for renewables that work. We need a complete about-face in energy policy with the government instead investing massively in insulating Britain’s homes to reduce energy demand and energy bills and address fuel poverty, and also to finance the proven renewable technologies that can provide power now at an affordable price to Britain’s citizens, including solar generation, a renewable technology already available to us which harnesses the energy of the Sun.”
For more information please contact: Richard Outram, Secretary, NFLA email Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org / mobile 07583 097793