Recently, a Korean nuclear fusion research facility succeeded in creating plasma from hydrogen. In fact, they were the second to produce plasma. A Chinese facility also did it, in 2006. This is a big step on the road to developing nuclear fusion as a viable source of clean, safe energy in the future. It’s expected that there will be nuclear fusion reactors producing electricity by the 2040s.
Unlike nuclear fission, fusion does not result in radioactive waste. It also doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. That means it will be an integral part of a sustainable energy future. Korea and China are partners in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project, an international initiative to develop nuclear fusion as an energy source. The list of ITER partners includes almost every industrialized country, except Canada. Besides Korea and China, there is the EU, the US, Japan, India, and Russia. Why Canada has not decided to pursue this is beyond me.
The government touts our new identity as an energy superpower, so why aren’t they investing in the energy source of the future? The day will come when nuclear fusion and other sources replace harmful oil and gas powered plants, so why not be a major player in the new fusion industry that will emerge? That would help maintain that energy superpower status.
The government also talks of significantly reducing greenhouse gases by the middle of the century. Why not invest in a technology that will help make it happen? By not being a part of this, it looks like they aren’t interested in expediting the development of a clean energy alternative because they rely on oil revenue.
Could it be that the cost is prohibitive? No. The KSTAR facility in Korea cost about $307 million. Surely an energy superpower like Canada, which is doing quite well relative to other industrialized countries these days due to strong fundamentals and high commodity prices, can afford to develop a technology that will change the world for the better and secure its position as an energy superpower for probably the entire century. Think of how much oil and gas revenue will come in over the next thirty-five to forty years until electricity from fusion becomes reality. The costs pale by comparison.
We shouldn’t stop at fusion, either. With energy and commodity prices as high as they are, we are in a luxurious position. We should be investing in science and national projects that will challenge Canadian industry to develop the technologies and industries of the future, and raise our profile in the world. The more successes we have, the more top scientists and success-oriented people we will attract, which will result in more successes. This kind of success spiral will result in ongoing, sustainable economic growth as new technologies find applications in the consumer marketplace as well as in industry. Think NASA. The economic benefits from its Apollo program were enormous.
This is our opportunity. Let’s take it.