Aerospace Giant Closes in on Superior Fusion Power
Lockheed Martin scientists have made a breakthrough in developing a nuclear-fusion-based power source, and estimates that the first commercial reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be available within 10 years. “We can make a big difference on the energy front,” says project head Tom McGuire. The company has been working for 60 years to find a way to make a power source based on nuclear fusion as a safer and more efficient alternative to the fission reactors in use since the Cold War era.
Nuclear power plants produce dangerous radiation as a byproduct and leave behind toxic nuclear waste that can endure for centuries. By contrast, fusion, which powers the stars, occurs when small, light atoms such as hydrogen smash together to form heavier atoms, releasing enormous amounts of energy. To date, scientists have been unable to initiate fusion reactions on Earth without using more energy than the reaction produces.
Preliminary work suggests that it will be feasible to build a 100 megawatt reactor 10 times smaller than traditional fission reactors. That’s enough power to light up a city of 80,000 homes. Lockheed Martin is now seeking government and industry partners to build a prototype.