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Guest: Stephanie Thomas; Topics: Princeton Satellite Systems fusion development program, R&D plus fusion fuels, R&D, the fusion industry overview, fusion reactor performance specs and timelines, funding fusion and much more.
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We welcomed Stephanie Thomas, VP of Princeton Satellite Systems (PSS) to the program to discuss her company PSS, fusion energy R&D, the potential commercial fusion industry, fusion companies, technical specs for various concepts of fusion reactors, fuel choices for fusion reactors, ITER, the large TOKAMAT reactors and of course the progress being made by PSS toward their fusion energy goals. Our discussion topics included the use of fusion for space propulsion, fusion for electrical energy, and the economics of fusion, especially in comparison to terrestrial power sources receiving government subsidies. Venture capital and investor funding was a key topic later in the program as was the reasoning our guest provided us as to why PSS was not at this time taking investor funding while instead seeking grant funding. Don't miss this part of our discussion. In fact, the funding issue as explained by our guest would make interesting listener posts on our blog so let us know what you think about funding fusion, VC investment and the direction PSS appears to be going.
During our 94 minute program we had multiple callers and received many listener emails. Our listeners ranged from highly knowledgeable about fusion energy and reactors to those seeking to understand it better. I included myself in the latter category and found our guest Stephanie to be an exceptional professor regarding fusion everything. As I have done with many other shows, I will let the tags/key words serve as an accurate summary to the subjects we discussed but there is a caveat. Many of our callers had very technical and advanced discussions with our guest. To make it easy to check out the tags and key words, I have repeated them here:
Tags/Key Words: Stephanie Thomas, Princeton Satellite Systems, Princeton Fusion Systems, fusion energy, fusion reactors, TOKAMAT Fusion Reactor, nuclear fission, ITER, multiple fusion companies, temperature concerns, materials, The Fusion Association, fusion space propulsion, fusion electrical grid energy, fusion fuel choices, fusion operation timelines, mirror systems, deuterium, tritium, Helium 3 (He3), oxygen, space mining for He3, gas giants and atmospheric He 3 mining, input vs. output issues, fusion reactor magnets, plasma, Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) engine, Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration reactor versions tab(PFRC), superconducting magnets, magnetic confinement, fusion pulse concept, fusion propulsion and speed of light travel, antimatter propulsion, fusion funding, PSatellite funding issues, venture capital and fusion funding, essential investor fusion funding milestones, subsidized terrestrial power, renewables, batteries, Public Private Partnerships, Princeton Satellite progress, 20 year time horizon for fusion space power, long lasting materials, Q factor, table top fusion reactors, Stephanie's fusion education, fusion and China and elsewhere, fission operating expenses compared to fusion operating expenses, cost comparisons to terrestrial power, fission reactor and fusion reactor."
Do not by any means think the tags and key words adequately summarize all of this program. The tags and key words should only be used as a general guide to what we discussed. For example, when magnets, plasma and confinement came up, Stephanie was very comprehensive with our callers delving into those subjects. Just saying we talked about them is hardly sufficient for the level of discussion our guest provided us. So while I do believe tags and key words served as an effective very general discussion summary, the facts are the Stephanie did a great job delving into fusion, not just for PSS, but for the industry, for R&D, the theoretical, what others in the industry were and are doing, fuel talk, even atmospheric mining of He3 out in the solar system and bringing it back, perhaps to the Moon. If you find topics and commentary that you have a hard time understanding, please post your questions about it on the blog. I will make sure our guest sees your questions but also I suspect several of the listeners can also respond and help answer your questions. As the goal of The Space Show is education, to me, this program served and is serving as a great example of Space Show objectives.
As for discussion topics I found interesting, the funding discussions, the why and why not of taking venture capital, the difference with a PR statement by a fusion company and then the same company scientist making a different statement, well, that was illuminating. Listen to Stephanie to find out what I am talking about. In addition, getting fusion to be commercial, not only from the technical perspective but from the economic perspective given terrestrial power costs with government subsidies was not so much new to me but a confirmation of what I realized was the game being played by government and its attempt to direct us to political outcomes rather than what may be best for the nation, even the planet. What do you think? Our blog is the place to let us know your thoughts on this matter.
Timelines, time horizons and long term development frustrated me. Given all the years fusion has been worked on at many levels, to think that we might still be 20 years away from a fusion reactor operating on the Moon or elsewhere in the solar system got to me. Another Stephanie response to a question asked her dealt with just giving PSS or fusion companies or the industry a boat load of money to speed up development and commercial operation. When asked what all the money in the world going to fusion would do for getting it online faster, well, once again you will have to listen to what she said to find out. The renewable energy discussion that came near the end of the program was also of interest to the listeners and me. This discussion included commentary on batteries, raw materials, the energy needed to make batteries, battery technology and even recycling of old batteries. Don't miss it.
I asked Stephanie for a program summary or to add in anything we might have missed. Our guest did a quick summary for us, told us about the PSS blog and their sister fusion company, Princeton Fusion Systems (www.princetonfusionsystems.com).
Please post your comments/questions for Ms. Thomas on our blog for this show. You can reach our guest through the PSS website or me.