Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Redmond, WA, United States (4E) – Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates has thrown his full support behind the international effort to develop commercially viable fusion reactors.
In a letter released last week outlining what he hopes to accomplish in 2019, Gates wrote that one of his goals for this year is to persuade U.S. leaders to “get into the game” of advanced nuclear energy (i.e. fusion energy). He also said the future of the Earth’s environment could be riding on the success of this effort.
“Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day,” said Gates.
For the U.S. to regain its position as a global nuclear energy leader, it needs to “commit new funding, update regulations, and show investors that it’s serious,” wrote Gates. He argues this renewed commitment will allow the U.S. to overcome the limitations of existing nuclear technology (i.e. nuclear fission) in a way that will significantly benefit the environment.
“The United States is uniquely suited to create these advances with its world-class scientists, entrepreneurs, and investment capital,” wrote Gates.
He pointed out the “world needs to be working on lots of solutions to stop climate change. Advanced nuclear is one, and I hope to persuade U.S. leaders to get into the game.”
The challenges to producing stable nuclear fusion are huge but surmountable. Nuclear fusion will provide a near-limitless source of clean energy created from hydrogen. The by-product will be a small amount of helium and not radioactive and lethal waste products as is the case with nuclear fission.
Last week, nuclear physicists and those working on the U.S. nuclear fusion reactor project were confident enough to state a prototype reactor will be up and running in the 2030s.
Researchers now mainly confront doable engineering problems, and many now believe fusion power plants will be a reality by the 2030s, or sooner.
“I’m 100 percent confident that this is going to happen,” said Christofer Mowry, CEO of General Fusion. “Are we going to have commercial fusion power plants on the grid by 2030? Maybe. But it won’t be 50 years, I can tell you that.”
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