Professor José Luis González Díez from the Higher Technical School of Naval Engineering at the Universidad politécnica de Madrid (UPM) has patented a nuclear fusion reactor of the inertial confinement type. The design is proposed for use both to generate electric power for utilities, as well as applied to ship propulsion. The design appears to be quite smaller than the infamous ITER suggested to be at a scale about the size of an aircraft carrier. If the design can function it would capsize a major investment and effort in the huge ITER design.
Professor Díez has experience in nuclear. His new idea is a design of a fusion nuclear reactor by laser ignition of 1000 MWe that uses as fuel hydrogen isotopes that can be extracted from water allowing for a significant savings in fuel.
Fusion isn’t market ready, by far. No technology yet produces net power for profitable sale. The UPM press release isn’t saying if the idea could or would expect to be a net power producer.
Diez’s background includes contributions to solve the problem of contamination risk associated with the generation of nuclear fission power. Today’s nuclear fission is generally considered as a dangerous energy because of its contaminant risks from radioactive waste resulting from the electricity generation process. The events that occurred in Japan after the tsunami of 2011 increased the media and thus public risk perception of this type of energy generation and that has, thankfully, provoked more research on alternative ways to obtain energy, which are gaining more importance than ever.
For decades nuclear fusion has been studied as an alternative to nuclear fission because of its remarkable advantages for security and financial issues. But today, there is not any working fusion reactor to produce continuous electrical energy of high voltage.
At UPM an effort called “Project Fusion Power” positioned Professor Diez to design a prototype of fusion reactor by inertial confinement. In this iteration of inertial confinement there would be total conversion of material into energy, with a fusion chamber that can adapt to the type of fuel to be used. Fuel ideas include deuterium-tritium, deuterium- deuterium or hydrogen-hydrogen. Therefore, according to the fuel, the size of the chamber can be adapted as well as its shape, the outer and inner equipment, coolants, moderators, shields and equipment of ignition.
It’s a very versatile idea.
UPM’s Project Fusion Power has also led to a design of a modular structure to realize couplings of various fusion reactors. That would allow engineers to maximize the power production solving the problem of the high current energy demand.
The scale of the invention could also determine the features of a fusion reactor for fusion applications in nuclear powered ships.
It’s a new idea that is for now a very thinly explained one. What the patent shows will surely make its way to the Internet pretty soon.
There isn’t any mention of funds for a prototype. From the experience in the U.S. with laser ignition, the price tag may be far beyond the reach of the UPM or perhaps even for Spain itself.
So far the news is based on the patent application announcement. We’ll be keeping an eye out for a paper being published that could very well get us more details worth examination and further thought. For now its congratulations and good luck.