Monday saw the Internet come alive with a posting on a New Mars forum where it’s thought with considerable credibility that Dr. Richard Nebel of EMC2 discussed some of his thoughts. The news made was an aside by Dr. Nebel that the one of the next logical steps could be a larger Bussard unit that may well go to net power out – or be the first working fusion power production unit.

WB7 Glows in its vacumn chamber

I dare say now that Dr. Robert W. Bussard is a permanent and highly significant fixture in humanity’s history. Dr. Nebel also seems to be locking his place in this field quite solidly too. Dr. Nebel’s candid and forthright answers and discussion in the forum is refreshing and rewarding. I almost wonder if the forum is a setup to get information out that a large and intensely interested core group follows very closely. While the current machine has results that remain in embargo due to the arrangements made in the beginning of the funding, as a sensible precaution, the team led by Dr. Nebel has exceeded the expectations both in time to completion and the results. So they’re ready there for the granting agency’s review and the independent third party examination.

It would seem the extra time available from building the more robust unit that Nebel and associates have built more than meets the expectations set out by Dr. Bussard. That may be the source of the confidence and ideas that are getting into conversation. The last time Dr. Nebel was interviewed he offered that the company could prepare and ship workable research units of the current model. This time he’s considering the building of a medium sized machine in the 1-½ meter range that would be large enough to make net power at a theoretical projection of 100MW. In the course of the forum discussion Nebel wrote, “Our contention is that since our projections for a power producing device only require a machine 1.5 meters in diameter (that) would in theory be able to produce something around 100MW of net power. (W)e might as well build the next one in that size range and accept the risk. The machines just aren’t all that expensive.”

“Aren’t all that expensive.” Wow, there’s wake up remark both for the fund granting type folks, but especially the suppliers of innovations and materials to build out the production product someday. It seems that its time for investors in the obvious supply areas to swing around and have hard look at what’s going on.

That means one of the things I hope to come out from the release of the details at the end of the embargo is “bill of components” and a set of specifications for what is used and what is needed. The obvious are the power controls of the unit, vacuum vessel, the magnets both the current experimental and proposed future designs, gas metering devices and in particular, the media used to harvest the energy from the expelled highly energized helium. There could be a huge manufacturing boom in a couple of years or so for the U.S.

Need more? Try the Daily Kos diary about the project by Roger Fox. Noted here is the forums. You will benefit by watching M. Simon, a well versed and highly informed person running the IEC Fusion Technology blog. And a favorite of mine, Brian Wang’s Next Big Future.

IEC Fusion looks to be a technology that may well be the coming innovation that will have a “drive to the lowest cost per Kw” effect on electrical power production. With this, wind, solar, thorium fueled atomic fission, uranium fission, coal, natural gas and any others like BlackLight, it seems a competition is coming for the production of electricity.


10 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous on July 10, 2008 3:11 PM

    Where did the new $3 Million cost estimate from Dr. Nebel come from, and compare this to past estimates of $150 M to $200 M?

  2. thorium on July 11, 2008 3:13 PM

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  3. TallDave on July 12, 2008 1:26 PM

    Heh, I should point out I was the author of an error in the comment that Nebel replied to there. I said “1.5M in diameter” which was wrong; it’s actually 1.5M in radius. Duh.

    Anon, $3M was for WB-7. The estimate for a 1.5M radius net power machine is $100-200M.

  4. TallDave on July 12, 2008 1:30 PM

    Oh I should add — the D-D machine can probably be built for around $50M based on some back-of-envelope calcs people have done at TalkPolywell. The rest is getting the damned thing to work, which will be very challenging, and ultimately perhaps impossible. It’s probably worth a shot though, if the WB-7 data looks good. It sounds like there will be a high-level review of that data by a committee various independent scientists from the field in the coming months.

  5. on August 4, 2008 3:58 AM

    Bussard fusion reactor under test…

    The Bussard ‘Inertial Electrostatic Confinement’ (IEC) Fusion test device has been built and tested. The team is being very tight lipped about precise results due to the terms of their funding. The group leader, Dr. Nebel does seem rather positive ab…

  6. M. Simon on August 4, 2008 5:53 AM

    I’m totally honored.

    BTW link to this posted at:

    Excuse my first comment. Corrected in the second.

    And thanks for the link to New Mars. Hadn’t seen that.

    And of course Kudos to you and Roger.

  7. More on Bussard Fusion, now being championed and carried on by Richard Nebel at LLNL. : Canadian Election 2008 on March 24, 2009 12:11 PM
  8. grants for women on November 8, 2010 9:25 AM

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  9. Arlie Breedon on May 24, 2011 8:58 AM

    Thanks for posting. Good to see that not everyone is using RSS feeds to build their blogs 😉

  10. Dudley Codell on September 17, 2011 6:27 PM

    Interesting read, perhaps the best article iv’e browse today. We learn everyday cheers to you!

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