By David Yamaguchi
The North American Post
On January 30, a seminar on nuclear fusion was hosted at Bellevue City Hall by the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington (JASSW). There, keynote speaker Nobuo Tanaka (Tanaka Global, Inc.) was followed by three local speakers: Jessie Barton (Helion), Mel Clark (CleanTech Alliance) and Ryan Umstattd (Zapp Energy).
▲Clean Fusion speakers, from left: Kenji Ushimaru (NW Director for the Japan External Trade Organization, JETRO; emcee), Ryan Umstattd, Jessie Barton, Mel Clark, Nobuo Tanaka, US Ambassador Michael Michalak (US-ASEAN Business Council; opening remarks). Photo: David Yamaguchi
The four speakers gently led the audience of 53 through an introduction to the new world of nuclear fusion energy. Here, the bullet points were:
• Nuclear fusion is a promising new path forward for countries and corporations to reduce their climate impacts.
• In contrast to nuclear fission, which involves the splitting of atoms, fusion involves the joining of atoms. The fuel for fusion is water, either fresh or saltwater.
• While both types of reactions produce tremendous amounts of usable en
ergy, fission also produces long-lived hazardous nuclear waste. By contrast, fusion produces only tritium, which has a half-life of 12.5 years, and helium, which can be used to fill balloons.
Washington is striving to become the leader of this new field, with five companies already established. Each company sought the highly skilled engineering, manufacturing and software talent that is already here.
Instead of being a “pie in the sky,” nuclear fusion is real. Local companies are already making fusion electricity daily. The challenge now is to drive down its energy and financial costs.
We are entering the “fourth wave” of industrial energy production, which began with coal (1840) and was succeeded in turn by oil, then natural gas and then modern renewables (solar, etc.).
The Seattle Times noted last May that Microsoft’s contract with Helion is to purchase at least 50 megawatts of electricity in 2028. Last August, Newsweek viewed the second ““net gain in energy”“ fusion experiment as proving that “the science is sound… the problem (is) one of engineering rather than physics.” Last month a Princeton experiment using a donut-shaped “Tokamak” reactor showed that small, less costly fusion reactors are possible.
If what the panelists said is true, we are on the verge of major technological and world change. Historically, it was the need for coal to replenish its China-bound steamships that led Commodore Perry to open US trade with Japan in 1854.
David Yamaguchi is the Executive Director of JASSW (firstname.lastname@example.org).