Lockheed’s fusion reactor in trouble

Avatar By Aaron Sims | 4 years ago

In 2014, Lockheed Martin announced that it was developing a nuclear fusion reactor small enough to fit on the back of a truck.

Many observers enthused that the reactor could ‘solve the world’s energy crisis.’

But it now seems the company may be facing some obstacles to its claim.

An updated technical report shows that the firm’s reactor is 100 times larger than originally planned, and weighs a massive 2,000 tons.

Dr. Matthew J Moynihan, a self-styled ‘Nuclear Fusion Evangelist’ from Houston, has released a technical specification on the fusion reactor project.

While Lockheed Martin claimed in 2014 that the reactor would weigh 20 tons, Dr. Moynihan’s specifications show that it will weigh 2,000 tons.

The reactor is seven meters in diameter and 18 meters long. It is similar in size to a submarine nuclear fission reactor.

“Based on the newest numbers – the CFR is not as compact as we had thought,” Moynihan wrote in a blog post, adding that it has enough space to fit two yellow school buses, with some extra room.

Nuclear fusion involves placing hydrogen atoms under intense heat and pressure until they fuse into helium atoms.

When deuterium and tritium nuclei – found in hydrogen – fuse, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron, and vast amounts of energy.

This is achieved by heating the fuel to temperatures exceeding 150 million degrees Celsius, to form a hot plasma.

Strong magnetic fields are employed to keep the plasma away from the wall so that it doesn’t cool down and lose its energy potential.

Plasma has to be confined for a long time to allow fusion to occur, leading to the production of energy.