Question:How do we make best use of our science and research strengths?
Answer submitted by Tim Howard on 09/30/2016
Members of the Canadian fusion community representing universities, industry and research support organizations from five provinces are proposing a revitalized Canadian fusion program with the vision that: by 2030, Canada will support the deployment of a demonstration fusion power plant. Our plan, named “Fusion 2030: A Roadmap for Canada,” is attached.
Climate change, clean technology and innovation are now identified in provincial and federal agendas as major issues facing Canada’s (and the world’s) future. There are three central questions: 1) How do we satisfy the large future energy requirements of the developed and especially developing countries? 2) How do we do this in a sustainable, environmentally acceptable way? And 3) How do we ensure suitable economic opportunity for our children, grandchildren and future generations in an energy dependent society? Associated with this is where does Canada want to position itself in a new global energy future?
Nuclear fusion is the energy process that powers the sun. Fusion energy is expected to be safe, reliable, clean and sustainable. It has the highest energy density, the best energy payback ratio and lowest carbon footprint of any source. It is an excellent solution to the problems of global climate change and long-term energy security. In addition, fusion energy research pushes the bounds of fundamental and applied research in areas ranging from plasma physics, to materials science, to high-performance computing, to power engineering, to name just a few areas.
Development of a fusion energy solution is a nation-sized challenge that requires coordinated national research leadership. Recent advances by international research consortia, universities and private industry are showing that practical fusion energy production is getting closer and will likely be achieved in the next 20 years. Unlike many countries, there is no national strategy for fusion energy research in Canada, although one did exist between 1985 and 1997.
Today, there are pockets of small-scale fusion-related research occurring across the country at universities and a number of private sector start-up companies. While these groups are contributing to fusion research, Canada needs to grow its involvement if it is to see the innovation and benefits that will come from the development of commercial fusion energy.
The Fusion 2030 roadmap lays out a strategy the goal to position Canada to be a world player in fusion research in 5 years and a leader in 10. It calls for a revitalized national Canadian fusion program, in concert with provincial initiatives, to prepare Canada for the coming fusion era. Preparedness and participation are the key attributes of the strategy.
Sustainable, clean base-load energy to replace carbon fuels is the paramount issue of this century and fusion is a major part of the solution. Fusion energy research also has the potential to enhance research, innovation and industrial development. Canada needs to be involved.
The Fusion 2030 Working Group
Credit: Fusion 2030 Working Group (University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, General Fusion, Sylvia