Lockheed is not revealing a commercial prototype nuclear fusion reactor in the next few years

Next Big Future brian wang | April 10, 2018

There have been several articles about Lockheed Martin putting out a patent for its compact nuclear fusion reactor to power aircraft carriers and be moved on trucks or put into airplanes.

The last technical updates indicated that the hope for a 20-ton design was out the window. 5-tesla superconducting magnets would make a 2000 ton nuclear fusion reactor IF everything worked. 15-tesla superconducting magnets would make a 200-ton nuclear fusion reactor. However, fermilab and the particle collider people working on 15-tesla and 16-tesla superconducting magnets are not expecting volume production for their needs until 2025-2030.

I believe there is zero chance that Lockheed has gone from tiny shed size prototype parts to a 2000 ton full-up prototype. This would likely cost billions.

Nextbigfuture believes that nuclear fusion is worth researching. However, any near-term success will likely be smaller proof of concept demonstration that at best would be net energy gain. Going to full up commercial prototypes with significant power generation makes no sense without net gain proof of concept being achieved.

Lockheed would definitely prove something small and interesting for up to $400 million or less and then get the US government to fund the billions for follow up work.

Past technical details

There is updated technical information on the Lockheed compact fusion reactor project. It was originally believed that the compact reactor would fit on a large truck. It looked like it might weigh 20 tons. After more engineering and scientific research, the new design requires about 2000 ton reactor that is 7 meters in diameter and 18 meters long. This would be about one third the length of a Dolphin diesel submarine and it would be slightly wider and taller. It would be similar in size to an A5W submarine nuclear fission reactor. We would not know for sure because the A5W size is classified but based on the size and likely configuration of a nuclear submarine this size estimate is likely.

They have performed simulations. In simulations, plasma confinement is achieved in magnetic wells with self – produced sharp magnetic field boundaries.
• Design closes for 200 MW th reactor, 18 meters long by 7 meters diameter device assuming hybrid gyroradii sheath and cusp widths and good coil support magnetic shielding.
• Neutral beam heats plasma to ignited state.
• The dominant losses are ion losses through the ring cusps into stalks and axially through the mirror confined sheath.
• Good global curvature gives interchange stability

Lockheed believes they can get better confinement at the cusps than the EMC2 polywell reactor.

Matthew J Moynihan has details on the Lockheed Martin fusion project based on a comprehensive look at available data.

15-tesla superconducting magnets to get to 200 tons in size but Fermilab is not getting production volume til about 2025

Lockheed believes a design with 15-tesla superconducting magnets could be reduced in size to 200 tons.

The Fermilab so-called 15-T Dipole Demonstrator was not only integrated into the MDP working plan but has also become a centerpiece of the program for the next two to three years. The field level of 15 T expected to be reached in this magnet is almost four times greater than the magnet strength in the Tevatron and two times greater than that in the Large Hadron Collider. Magnets at this field level require niobium-tin superconductor, an advanced material that has yet to be used in any existing accelerator.

Technical results presented on the T4 experiment in 2015 showed a cold, partially ionized plasma with the following parameters: peak electron temperature of 20 Electron volts, 1E16 m−3 electron density, less than 1% ionization fraction and 3 kW of input power. No confinement or fusion reaction rates were presented.

Two theoretical reactor concepts were presented by Tom McGuire in 2015. An ideal configuration weighing 200 metric tons with 1 meter of cryogenic radiation shielding and 15 Tesla Magnets. A conservative configuration weighing 2,000 metric tons, 2 meters of cryogenic radiation shielding, and 5 Tesla magnets was also presented.

There was a presentation on the Lockheed reactor project at Princeton.

31 page analysis by Matthew J Moynihan