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Guest: Eric Lerner; Topics: Fusion energy updates, Focus Fusion, LPP Fusion updates, boron & hydrogen fusion progress. Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website, www.thespaceshow.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.
We welcomed Eric Lerner, Chief Scientist and CEO of LPP Fusion and Focus Fusion back to the show for updates as Eric was last on the show in December 2013. During the first segment of our one hour 23 minute discussion, Eric went over the basics of his fusion work with LPP Fusion (http://lppfusion.com) and the Focus Fusion Society (www.focusfusion.org). He also went into detail as to the technology, methodology, fuel, processes and funding required to produce fusion energy. At times the discussion was fairly technical but follow along using his websites, slides, and videos as these are good explanations as to what he was describing as needed to produce net energy from fusion.
Questions about the fuel choices came up in this segment. Eric explained his choice to use boron and hydrogen, he talked about competing fuel choices and what his competitors were doing and using including the giant tokamak reactors such as the European ITER. Eric explained that he had progressed through the three necessary steps for creating net fusion energy with the last challenge being density. He explained this in detail during this segment. He also talked about impurities and the flaw he was encountering regarding the plasma and vaporization. He then described his tungsten experiments and where that had taken him in perfecting the needed process. In addition, Erick discussed the bake-out problem and solution.
Mr. Lerner was asked about funding issues as we neared the end of the first segment. He talked about the LPP burn rate, number of employees they have and could use with better funding, along with their current program, "Fund A Shoot." Find out more about this project at http://lppfusion.com/money/donate-to-help-the-research.
In the second segment, a listener asked Eric about government funding for his project. Don't miss what he said about this possibility as he once had some JPL funding. He then discussed the method the most likely method of distributing power once the project was commercial. He talked about decentralized power with communities getting their own off the shelf 5 mw generator. We talked about the challenges in doing this including opposition from energy companies, utilities, the Public Utilities Commission in the states and other involved local, state, and federal government agencies and organizations. Eric spoke to the need for education and outreach which he said is one of the main focuses of the Focus Fusion Society.
Andrew asked Eric about competing with solar power. Eric had much to say about solar power. He explained why in his opinion solar power would not be price competitive with fusion due to large infrastructure and maintenance costs. Eric was asked about engineering and commercial breakeven (b/e) for fusion. Our guest explained why he preferred the terms scientific feasibility and net power back. He thought that with proper funding, the engineering phase two from lab to a working generator demo might cost $50-$100 million and take 3-4 years.
Doug emailed in a question asking about the application of fusion to space. Eric talked about his past support from JPL. He also suggested fusion for the development of fusion propulsion. He received several additional emails on a variety of topics including one address the capital cost per watt, comparing it to today's power costs.
Eric summarized many of the concepts, costs, approaches, and challenges before the show ended. Paul in Boston asked him about his frustration level given how long Eric has been working toward fusion energy. Don't miss what Eric said about this.
For his discussion takeaway, Eric summarized the need for adequate funding in order to get the needed results to move forward at an acceptable rate. Don't forge to post your comments/questions on TSS blog in the comments section for this archived program. You can reach Eric Lerner though me or his websites.